Jon Jones has had a rough road, and he admits he has a lot of regrets over the things he's done in the past. His behavior has inflicted harm on peers, family, friends, and training partners; and especially on Jessie Moses, his fiancé who, according to Jones, has had to, "put up with my shit for years."
Even during Jon Jones' incredible rise through the MMA world, he says he was a struggling "addict," a word that the fighter uses to describe his former behavior.
"One thing people don’t realize is that you can be a drug addict even if you are a stoner," he told MMAJunkie.com. "If you are waking up every day and smoking, smoking before you eat, smoking before you train, smoke before you sleep, smoking before you watch a movie, smoking before your study session, you are an addict. It doesn’t have to be a hard drug to be an addict."
It's a rationalization that's very real to Jones and that he takes seriously. He also thinks other should do:
If you’re spending lots of money on it and all your friends are people who do it as well and you don’t really associate with people who are completely sober, then, yeah, you are an addict. I think that’s why people have these issues with marijuana, because they don’t really consider it a drug.
But a new Jon Jones is emerging. A clean and sober Jones. The first step was to kick the habit. The habit that started for Jones in high school. It continued through college and was occurring during his entire professional MMA career:
It was literally what I would do in between fights. I was just sitting, enjoying life and thinking that I was a hippie. I didn’t feel I was hurting anyone else, didn’t feel I was being a bad person.
Instead of becoming the lovable hippie, the excessive use led to Jones actually retreating into a world of negativity:
It became who I enjoyed being. I thought I was preserving myself from all the negatives and evil of the world. I would pop out of my cave for fights.
It was this world of negativity that led to his various run ins with the law. In 2012, Jones crashed into a pole while under the influence. In 2015, before UFC 182, he failed a cocaine test. Later that year, he was involved in a felony hit-and-run where a pregnant woman was injured.
He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 18 months probation and community service.
To add insult to injury, he was placed on suspension by the UFC and stripped of his light heavyweight title.
it was a title that, despite all of the troubles, he has won almost flawlessly. His only loss in 16 fights came from a disqualification for throwing illegal elbows, a disqualification that UFC president Dana White has publicly NOT supported. Despite all of the weed use and the troubles with the law, he's yet to face a defeat on the same scale as superstars like Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor have.
He's never been knocked out or submitted inside the Octagon. It's a track record that he plans to continue when he faces Ovince Saint Preux at UFC 197 this Saturday.
Jones admits his failures, but isn't humble when it comes to his natural abilities and work ethic:
You can’t question whether I’m a (natural) athlete. Despite being a bit of a knucklehead, I have a great mind for this game. Even though I have bad qualities in my personal life, as an athlete I can turn it on. I will get out there and train harder than anyone, five times a day sometimes. You have to be a special person to do that — like special forces, military maybe. You find a way to get to practice and do it one more time.
It's this type of mental toughness that makes him such a unequivocal force in the Octagon. It's also this mental toughness that allows him to open up and admit to his past mistakes.
Jones knows that the tough road is over, but the end is clearer than it ever has been thanks to his sobriety:
I feel like I am having a come-to-Jesus moment right now. This is real stuff, and I feel so free talking about it now. A rough beginning doesn’t have to mean there is a rough end. I’m ready to be the best me I can be.