Jon Jones is welcome back to the UFC. We learned that much after the promotion announced his reinstatement, following about a five-month suspension related to his hit-and-run incident in April.
Luckily for the MMA community (sans Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and his knees), Jones wants back in too. We learned that much after witnessing his reaction to the news on social media. That may not have been surprising to some, but take a moment to consider what his manager, Malki Kawa, said shortly after his suspension: Jon Jones, arguably the greatest fighter the sport has ever seen, was contemplating retirement at the age of 27.
But he’s not retiring. Not while he’s capable of being a better version of the man already known for destroying some of the greatest men to step into the Octagon.
“As time went on and he really had time to look at himself, he really had time to self reflect to figure out what he really wanted, and he really wants to fight,” Kawa said on The MMA Hour Monday. “I think that it came into question; he was under a lot of pressure, stress, a lot of expectations. Some of it’s stuff that he puts on himself.
“He had always told me, from before that last fight that he had scheduled [against Anthony Johnson], that he wanted a long break. Every fight kept on presenting itself, and every time that the UFC wanted him to fight, he just couldn’t say no.”
Call it sour grapes if you must, but according to his manager, Jones needed time away from the sport. A silver lining, if anything, to the awful scenario he created on that fateful April night when crashing his vehicle into that of a pregnant woman.
We may not know when Jones will come back, but he’s intent on doing so. At least we have that much. Meanwhile, he and his team continue to negotiate a comeback with Dana White and the UFC. In Kawa’s perfect world, MMA is legalized in the state of New York and Jones headlines the UFC’s first card in the Big Apple, challenging Daniel Cormier for the crown DC failed to take in January.
Only that Cormier’s already gone on record to say he won’t fight Jones in his home state. If anything, the champion thinks Jones needs to face the music as he makes his walk to the cage, walking right into the criticism the world shares for the former 205-pound king.
But DC’s sentiments won’t stop Kawa from seeing his perfect-world scenario come true.
“I don’t think DC has any choice, if I’m being honest with you,” Kawa said. “Everyone knows who the champion is.
“The reality of is, this fight’s very important to DC as well. If DC is the opponent, on whatever day it is, you got to think he needs this fight just as much as anybody. Because I see what everyone is saying, I see what everyone is thinking. I’m guessing he’s listening. He beat Gustafsson, he beat Johnson. Congratulations to him, he’s a phenomenal fighter, but he still didn’t beat Jon Jones. No one took that belt from him.”
Cormier and Jones already faced off once before, fighting to a five-round unanimous decision the judges rightfully awarded to Jones who retained his title. Weeks after seeing his hand raised for the 21st time in his professional career, it was revealed Jones tested positive for cocaine metabolites prior to his championship performance.
Jones dismantled a man arguably seen as his toughest test for 25 minutes, all while using substances capable of deteriorating his craft in the weeks prior. Despite all his successes in and out of the Octagon, despite being the greatest mixed martial artist in the world, it was obvious Jones was only giving a fraction of himself to the sport.
That version of “Bones” Jones is a figment of the past. But the version that walks about today? That man is focused, his manager says.
“One word that can really describe Jon right now is ‘focused,'” Kawa said. “I’ve never seen him this focused.
“This is the first time we can all sit here and say he’s putting in some work. And he’s really putting in some work. He’s doing the best he can at almost everything he’s doing. So he’s very focused at becoming a monster inside that Octagon and being a great person outside the Octagon.”
We’ll have to wait and see what that new focus does for a man already carrying an aura of invincibility. Until then, we’ll have to settle for watching videos of Jones breaking his personal squat record on Instagram.