The former UFC light heavyweight champion used to seem unstoppable. "Bones" is 21-1 in his pro MMA career, with his only defeat coming by disqualification for using illegal elbows (a loss that UFC president, Dana White, says shouldn't have counted).
Then everything changed in 2015.
The year started with Jones testing positive for cocaine, followed by his involvement in a hit-and-run incident that injured a pregnant woman. Jones would later plead guilty to the felony charge, and was sentenced to 18 months of probation and 72 community service appearances. He was also be stripped of his title and suspended from the UFC indefinitely.
In October, it was announced that his ban would be lifted; and later this month, it was expected that he would return to the ring and try to reclaim his title against long time rival, Daniel Cormier. Following an injury Cormier suffered in training though, Jones will now be fighting Ovince Saint Preux for an interim title.
Jones' return to the ring has been a bumpy one. His continued run ins with the police nearly derailed his comeback. What's worse, is that Jones' antics outside of the ring had muddied his public profile and he knows it's going to be a while before he regains the respect and admiration of the fans... and his peers.
Pretty much my whole career I wasn't living like a champ. Fighters that look up to me would go out with me on weekends and see me get blackout wasted, weeks before a fight.
Then they think, 'Jon Jones can do it. Maybe I can.'... That would lead somebody down the wrong path of thinking. That was the same thing I was doing.
While Jones may have partied too hard, the fact is... he was still a winner. He could do what he wanted and his talent took over once he stepped in the octagon. When you're a winner, the money follows... which isn't always a good thing.
I really started to get money, started to be able to afford to go out, to have a good time and buy people drinks.
Growing up, I was poor. In college I was poor. I never had anything. Then I go from living in a basement to renting out a house. My life just started to change so fast. . . .I was never popular. . . .
I became popular for the first time in my life, and I became obsessed with it.
The motivation to clean up his act came for Jones from an unusual place, not his friends, his family, his coaches, like one would think, but from his long time rival Daniel Cormier.
Facing "DC" at UFC 197 has been his only focus. He's been sober for months and has completed all of his previously court-mandated community service and public speaking engagements. Still, Jones' arrest last week for "drag racing" and his behavior towards the arresting officer, are warning signs that the "old" Jon Jones is still in there, but even Jones admits: he still has a ways to go to become the man he wants to be.
I'm only at the doorstep of earning my second chance. Doing community service was court-ordered. That's not earning a second chance. Being sober when you're on probation isn't earning your second chance. I got a lot of proving to do. It's a matter of actions. It's about my effort. I feel like I have a lot more work to do.