Can Jon Jones Ever Reclaim Status As UFC Champion And MMA’s Best?

Less than three days before Jon Jones was scheduled to headline the biggest event in UFC history, reports of a failed drug test rocked the world of mixed martial arts and forced the UFC to cancel what would’ve been one of the most important fights of his entire career.

In what was supposed to be a light heavyweight title unification bout against hated rival and current 205-pound champ Daniel Cormier at Saturday’s UFC 200, Jones would’ve had the opportunity to prove that he’s still the best fighter on the planet after a variety of personal and legal issues led to the loss of his title and a one-year suspension.

But now that Jones has blown that opportunity and is likely looking down the barrel of a two-year suspension, fight fans of every kind are wondering if we’ve seen the last of the sport’s most self-destructive superstar.

Although both the ”A” and ”B” test samples tested positive for the banned substance, Jones implied that he didn’t know how he could’ve failed the test in question during Thursday’s emotional press conference.

”They found something in one of my samples,” said Jones via ESPN. ”I don’t even know how to pronounce it. I’ve been taking the same supplements the majority of my career. I’ve been so outspoken about being against any type of performance-enhancers. To this day, I’m extremely against performance-enhancers.”

”The whole thing sucks,” Jones continued. ”Being labelled as someone who would cheat hurts more than anything else I’ve ever been through in my career.”

While it seems as though Jones is always either hurting his career with an ill-advised decision, or attempting to overcome the consequences of his self-destructive behavior, his highly-publicized problems outside of the Octagon didn’t surface until he was arrested for driving under the influence after slamming his Bentley into a telephone pole in upstate New York in the spring of 2012–nearly four years into his UFC career. Until that night, the only real knock against Jones involved the same overall lack of sincerity toward fans and the media that Cormier has often accused him of.

Ironically arrested by the same police department that he’d filmed a training video with only months earlier and bailed out of jail by his mother, Jones seemed to learn from that incident. And as far as the UFC was concerned, the promotion’s then-potential superstar had learned a valuable lesson about life in the spotlight that would serve him well in the future.

Then, despite staying out of trouble, or at least avoiding the kind of trouble that the UFC and the media would care about, for nearly three years, Jones failed a pre-fight drug test when cocaine metabolites were detected in his system prior to his showdown with Cormier at UFC 182 in January of 2015. However, because the drug, benzoylecgonine, isn’t banned out of competition by the World Anti-Doping Agency, the Nevada State Athletic Commission couldn’t stop Jones from stepping into the octagon and ultimately defeating the former Olympian.

Unfortunately for both Jones and the UFC, the stint in rehab that resulted from the failed test lasted less than a full day after the former light heavyweight champ checked himself out just in time to watch NFL-playing brothers Chandler and Arthur compete against each other in the 2015 AFC Championship Game.

As many predicted, Jones soon fell completely off the cliff a few months later when he was involved in a three-car accident that left one pregnant woman with a broken arm and local law enforcement looking for the UFC’s light heavyweight king. After Jones turned himself in on a felony charge of fleeing the scene of an accident involving death or personal injuries, the UFC was forced to act, stripping its 205-pound champion of his title and suspending him for one year.

Clearly frustrated by the latest chapter of Jones’ ongoing personal drama, UFC president Dana White was once again the bearer of bad news as he made the announcement regarding the cancellation of the card’s light heavyweight headliner on Thursday. But during last Friday’s interview with Fox Sports’ Colin Cowherd, White threw some unexpected support behind the troubled former champion before stating the painfully obvious.

”This guy is a professional. I truly believe—I believe this—I’m not the biggest Jon Jones fan right now, but I truly believe he did take a supplement that had this stuff in it and it wasn’t intentional,” said White. ”I truly believe that.”

”But at the same time, come on—you’re [Jones] 28 years old, you’re probably the greatest talent to ever step foot in this sport, call USADA and tell them what supplements you’re taking,” added White.

Since claiming the division’s interim title with a win over replacement opponent Ovince Saint Preux in April, Jones had often spoken of overcoming his personal issues and acting as an inspiration to others as he did during an interview with ESPN’s Arash Markazi earlier this month.

”I want to show the world that you can be down but never out,” said Jones. ”I want to be a story where someone risked losing so much but ultimately turned everything around. A lot of times you hear these stories about athletes who ruined their career and they go away and no one knows what happened to them, or they’re bankrupt or they end up in jail. They just ruined a great career. I want to be one of the few stories you hear where I was ruining things but ultimately turned things around and became a hero. That’s my vision for the way my story is going to play out.”

After consistently failing to fulfill his professional obligations by engaging in such self-destructive behavior, it doesn’t matter if Jones is lying about intentionally taking the mystery banned substance. Fight fans have already convicted him of being undependable. And if Jones does receive a two-year suspension, both the UFC and its fan-base will have every right to forget about the light heavyweight legend and ignore another one of his attempts to return to the Octagon.

[Photo By-Ethan Miller/Getty Images]