Jon Jones vs. Shogun Rua was one of my favorite moments as a sports fan. I started getting into MMA fairly early into Jon's UFC career and he was the first fighter that really stood out. This was despite the first time I watched him fight he lost. Since the Vera fight he was my favorite fighter and I've rooted for him. I love how he fights and I even like his personality. The peak moment of my fandom was when Jon finally became the UFC Light Heavyweight champion. With the way that he demolished Shogun I realized that Jon had a legitimate shot of being the greatest LHW ever. The only person that can really beat Jon Jones was himself.
A big part of the reason I like Jon Jones is because of his personality. Contrary to what Charles Barkley thinks athletes will be role models as long as sports are highly revered in our society. I like that he embraced the title of a role model. As a non-stereotypical young black man I have always had a issue with how much the black community was so proud of being assholes. The best example of this is Kanye West(and various other rappers) who on his first album was bragging about much of an asshole he is and he has lived up to it on various occasions:
Why you think, me and Dame cool, we're assholes
That's why we're hear, your music in fast forward
'cause we don't wanna here that weak shit no more
So a young dude coming up and saying, "Hey, I'm a good person. I work hard and I do the right thing. You should be like me," was refreshing. I know many people like to pick out moments when he didn't live up to that image, but there are many times that he did. I always found it amusing when he would respond "Yes, sir" to refs if he gets warned about something.
Doing something like that is a big burden. If you're going to claim yourself as someone who should be looked up to then people will look for reasons why you shouldn't be. Jon's polar opposite on image is Rampage Jackson. Rampage is very charismatic and can be hilarious. He can also be a bully, misogynistic, and has said he doesn't really care for fans bothering him(well male ones anyway). Rampage just wants to enjoy the things that fighting gave him. He doesn't want to be a role model and doesn't care if anyone looks up to him or not. All Rampage really cares about is that he is respected. So when Rampage does something inappropriate some people may get upset, but the expectations aren't high for him since he sets the bar low anyway.
Trying to be a positive role model has had it's benefits for Jon also. His fighting style along with his personality has had the UFC aggressively push him as the face of the entire promotion. Even though Nick Diaz is MUCH more liked among the hardcore community there aren't Coca-Cola executives watching Nick Diaz fight because they are considering sponsoring him. He was also on the cusp of a Nike deal. So him being the "nice guy" has made him rich.
So if he wants to claim the mantle of being a "role model" he has to live up to it at all times. If he just wants to do it for the money then it is the same thing. I'm sure LeBron James hasn't paid for alcohol in a club in his life, but he has never got arrested for anything and people(paparazzi and such) target guys like him. Lots of people have been calling for a moment for Jon to be "humbled" and I hope this is his moment if he needed one. The good thing for him is that so far no one really cares. In our MMA bubble it's a huge deal, but the mainstream media couldn't care less. It isn't even in the "Top Stories" section on ESPN.com anymore and it is less than 24 hours later. As sad as it sounds a DWI is also a fairly low on the totem pole for things that people will hate an athlete for unless someone gets hurt.
As I said earlier, the only person who can beat Jon Jones is Jon Jones. He may work his ass off in the gym, but if he beats himself personally it will bleed over. Tiger Woods is a better golfer than Jon Jones is a fighter and he damaged his family, reputation, and play almost over night. As Tiger showed you're never too good to **** yourself over. And the taller you stand the more people will be waiting to kick you when you're down. So if he wants to be a role model he needs accept all parts of it all the time. A public figure gets no time off.