Twice in the sports pages of the Albuquerque Journal, it has been suggested that Albuquerque would be a better place without Jon Jones in it.
Jones, not in response but in sharp contrast, says he just wants to make Albuquerque a better place.
“I want, when (people) say ‘I’m from Albuquerque,’ I want people to go, ‘Hey, Jon Jones is from there,'” the celebrated MMA fighter said in a phone interview with the Journal on Tuesday. “I want my name to represent something so positive and empowering.
To say that road has been bumpy would be a colossal understatement. And what happened in Las Vegas, Nevada some 17 months ago should never be forgotten in Albuquerque.
Forgiven? Yes, but, for those purposes, Albuquerque’s a city in Missouri.
Don’t tell us, Jon. Show us. Keep showing us.
The occasion of Tuesday’s interview was Jones’ scheduled fight against France’s Cyril Gane in Vegas on Saturday for the vacant UFC heayweight championship. It’s the Albuquerque resident’s debut in the heavyweight division after having held that organization’s light heavyweight title for nine years over 14 successful defenses.
The GOAT? Most would say so.
Out of the Octagon, however, too often, Jones’ conduct has been indefensible. The list is too long to be recited here.
It was what happened in Vegas in September 2021, though, that remains the most troubling.
Jones was in Vegas to accept an award from the UFC Hall of Fame. He went out for drinks with friends afterward.
The next morning, according to a police report, Jones’ fiancee approached the security desk at a Vegas casino with blood on her face and her sweatshirt. Police were called, and Jones was located walking on the Vegas Strip. A police video shows him, angry and distraught, head-butting a patrol car.
Jones never admitted to have struck his fiancee, and she said to police only that he’d gotten physical with her “a little bit.” He ultimately accepted a plea deal for having damaged the patrol car, and the domestic-violence charge was dropped.
So, that was then and this is now? In a 20-minute UFC news conference on Wednesday, all but one question directed to Jones was about issues stemming from Saturday’s fight.
When one reporter asked him about the Las Vegas incident, Jones’ quick reply was, “Next question.”
In the Journal interview on Tuesday, Jones was asked what had changed – and how he had changed – since he last fought some three years ago after abandoning the light heavyweight title and plotting his return at heavyweight.
“Slow changes,” he said. “Slow changes. Living a martial-arts lifestyle, training every day, having a team that can keep me accountable.
“Hitting the gym four days a week, eating clean, eating more (in the effort to bulk up). Yeah, I think it is a byproduct of just the lifestyle, for sure.”
It’s a fact that, since the September 2021 incident in Las Vegas, there have been no brushes in the law, no positive tests for drugs or banned substances.
On the latter, the United States Anti-Drug Agency has made adjustments to the levels of banned substances that constitute a positive reading – dropping Jones’ previous testing below those levels and supporting his claim that he never intentionally has ingested a performance-enhancing product.
And before and since what happened in Vegas, before and during the COVID pandemic, Jones, an upstate New York native but an Albuquerque resident since 2009, has gone above and beyond to show Albuquerque he cares. His C.A.R.E. Project has provided locals with money for groceries, clothing, school supplies, etc.
“I want people to know Albuquerque as a place where you can come and be very successful,” Jones said. “I’m a proud guy from Albuquerque.”
And where is he on that journey to being a guy Albuquerque can be proud of?