Mixed martial artist Jon “Bones” Jones has been stripped of his championship and suspended indefinitely by UFC executives who spent Tuesday afternoon in Albuquerque gathering facts about the fighter’s involvement in a Sunday hit-and-run traffic accident in which a woman suffered a broken arm.
The decision became known late Tuesday, shortly after Jones made his first public comments on the Sunday morning incident. “Got a lot of soul searching to do. Sorry to everyone I’ve let down,” he posted on Twitter.
Jones was scheduled to fight No. 1 light heavyweight contender Anthony Johnson on May 23 in Las Vegas, Nev., as the headliner of the UFC 187 pay-per-view event. Instead, Johnson will fight Daniel Cormier for the belt taken from Jones.
In a statement, the UFC stated Jones violated the fight promotion’s Athlete Code of Conduct Policy based on the recent charges and other past incidents, including a recent failed drug test for cocaine. “The organization believes it is best to allow Jones time to focus on his pending legal matters,” the statement read. “UFC feels strongly that its athletes must uphold certain standards both in and out of the Octagon. While there is disappointment in the recent charges, the organization remains supportive of Jones as he works through the legal process.”
A message seeking comment from Jones’ coach, Greg Jackson of Albuquerque’s Jackson-Wink MMA gym, was not returned.
Earlier in the day, dressed in a neat gray suit and flanked by two attorneys, the 27-year-old Jones made an initial appearance in Metropolitan Court and heard the charges against him. It was less than 24 hours after he turned himself in, ending a one-day search for him by Albuquerque police.
Jones was not required to enter a plea. Judge Maria Dominguez heard a summary of Jones’ previous brushes with the law, continued the $2,500 bail Jones posted Monday night and told him he cannot consume alcohol or take illegal drugs, and he must maintain contact with his attorney.
Dominguez did not impose any travel restrictions, leaving the door open for Jones to proceed with the May 23 fight. At the end of the proceeding, he quickly made for a nearby stairway door without answering questions from reporters waiting in the seventh-floor hallway.
UFC President Dana White, CEO Lorenzo Fertitta and Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Epstein visited Jones on Tuesday afternoon in the Albuquerque offices of his lawyer, Vincent Ward. White said then, before flying back to UFC headquarters in Las Vegas, Nev., that no decision on Jones’ future had been made.
After later announcing the suspension, White elaborated on his meeting with Jones.
“He’s very disappointed. He’s upset,” White told Fox Sports, the UFC’s official broadcast partner. “He wanted to go down as one of the greats, or the greatest ever. He’s disappointed, but it is what it is. It was the decision we had to make.”
Jones surrendered to authorities on Monday night and was taken into custody and booked into the Metropolitan Detention Center on a charge of knowingly leaving the scene of an accident involving great bodily harm. He posted bail and was released from the jail within hours.
Police had been searching for Jones since Sunday morning, when he ran from the scene of a traffic accident at the intersection of Juan Tabo and Southern SE.
A police report indicates Jones was driving a rented SUV when he allegedly ran a red light and broadsided the car of a pregnant woman in her 20s. Inside the SUV, police found Jon Jones MMA sports memorabilia, paperwork indicating the SUV had been rented by Jones’ wife, and a pipe with marijuana in it.
A criminal complaint says one eyewitness saw Jones run from the accident but return to grab a handful of cash from inside the SUV before fleeing again. Another eyewitness, an off-duty police officer and a UFC fan, immediately identified the fleeing driver as Jones.
It wasn’t until Monday night that police, who were searching for Jones, issued a statement saying “arrangements” had been made for the high-profile fighter to turn himself in.
Originally from New York, Jones has been living in Albuquerque full time in recent months but has trained in the city for several years at the Jackson-Wink gym, one of the top MMA training gyms in the world.
At age 23, Jones became the youngest fighter to win a UFC championship. He holds the record for the most (eight) consecutive title defenses in UFC light-heavyweight history.
The traffic accident wasn’t Jones’ first run-in with the law.
In May 2012, he was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence after he crashed his Bentley into a telephone pole in Binghamton, N.Y. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of driving while intoxicated and avoided jail time, according to newspaper reports.
In August 2014, during a photo opportunity to promote his coming fight with Cormier, the two fighters got into a brawl in the lobby of the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nev.
In January, after a random drug test administered by the Nevada Athletic Commission, Jones was fined $25,000 for testing positive for cocaine and violating the UFC’s Athlete Code of Conduct.