(*DISCLAIMER: This piece is an opinion piece based on my experience with many comments I have either read OR heard directly. This piece is about what I BELIEVE to be hypocrisy, not a perfectly objective one, trying to point out that what I have heard IS 100% hypocrisy.*)
From the headline of this article, one might be quick to conclude that I sound like a prototypical "Jones nut hugger" or, for the sake of being a little more pleasant, a follower of The Champ. Let me first clarify, I write this article from the perspective of a MMA enthusiast who is dumbfounded when it comes to the hatred Mr. Jones receives. Nothing more and nothing less. While it, generally, may bewilder me, I don't believe some of it is unwarranted. In order to reach the ULTIMATE reason of why I feel there is a "hypocrisy" in the hatred I have read and heard from many of Jones's detractors, let us first, briefly, go through the history of The Champ's career, beginning from right before his first title fight against Mauricio "Shogun" Rua.
In early February of 2011, press conferences and interviews were a common occurrence for both The Challenger, Jon Jones, and The Champion, Mauricio Rua. Exposure for the fight was a must and marketing obligations are the other aspect of the fight many fighters have to follow through with (unless you're Nick Diaz). As many of us can remember, "Bones" was being touted as a heavily regarded talent, a blue chip prospect with phenomenal athleticism with a cerebral approach to the fight game commonly unseen in other young talents. The dominance of Bones, heading into the fight, was so impressive that Jones actually had been declared a favorite over Shogun (Shogun +180 to Jon's -230, courtesy of our friends at MMA Mania who retrieved their odds from BetUs.com).
I present to you the beginning of the hypocrisy of hating Mr. Jones. The first small case of a possible reason to hate Jones stems from the way he would give his John Hancock when responding to fan requests for autographs. Apparently, from multiple fan testimonies, provided as countless comments on MMA websites and direct statements (in person), The Challenger would frequently sign "Jon 'Bones' Jones, The Champion." While this may come off as nothing short of "arrogant," please ask yourself, how is it any different than a fighter declaring he will be the victor in a fight or the "new" champion before a title bout takes place? While this seems a little ballsy by Mr. Jones, it is nothing less than what we have seen or heard before. Case in point, Josh Koscheck vs Georges St. Pierre in their rematch, title fight after TUF season 12.
How many times did we actually see Koscheck taunt GSP or attempt to goad him into some reaction on the show? How many times did we have to constantly be tortured by hearing him persistently announce that he will defeat GSP? Yes, there is a rather large faction of fans that don't like Mr. Koscheck, but if memory serves me right, many gave him a "pass" as he was "just advertising the fight by playing the bad guy." So is it worse to sign autographs as The Champion before you are it than it is to berate The Champ and openly (and repeatedly) declare you will be it? For some reason, many fans took quite an exception to this action by Jones even though much worse has been performed with a blind eye turned towards it.
"However, it is easy to make a point when picking a fighter many people already dislike." Very true. Then how about Frankie Edgar vs BJ Penn 1? Edgar, a largely beloved fighter noted for his heart and unyielding will, going into the fight, indeed not only believed but also declared he would win the fight against the legendary and heavily respected, wrecking ball that was the Lightweight Champion BJ Penn. My point being, regardless of whether it is a "loved" or "hated" fighter, many challengers for titles declare they will be the next champion. So, does the fashion they do it in really matter? In other words, there is hardly any proper justification TO HATE Jones for his autographing as "The Champ," especially since he backed it up, but NOT hate all the other challengers for declarations of winning titles before AND after he won his.
Another instance of hatred Bones has received, I do not agree with, is when he defeated Shogun. I credit this fight with creating the "because Jones was taller, heavier and has the longest reach in the UFC, he won" excuse. This fight I also credit with starting the "hate Jon Jones for beating your favorite fighter" trend. Trust me, I know how much people loved Shogun and it was nothing less of heart-breaking to see him lose the title after wresting it from Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida. However, I ask you, is it right to really hate Jones for beating a fighter you liked (or your favorite fighter)? What else is the man suppose to do? Lie down and allow his opponent to win just to please you? I would be more sympathetic to your cause if Jones had made light of Shogun as a fighter and/or his credentials, but he did not do that. He respected Shogun, but did not shy away from believing he was going to win the fight, like any other logical mindset a challenger would have, and, more importantly, SHOULD have.
Instead of congratulating Jones or reveling in the new era Jones would go on to bring, fans fabricated a story, concluding that the new champ was "fake." But what was this strong accusation based on? At the time, it was not the easiest task to make that argument, mainly based on the lone fact Jones did not talk trash about Shogun and respected the challenge he would bring. Regardless, fans insisted BECAUSE Bones was of the minority of fighters NOT to trash his opponent, he had to be "fake." You'd think after hearing how Jones apprehended a thief a couple hours prior to his title fight, Bones would be one of the most cherished fighters. Little did the media, or Bones himself, know, at the time, how this small accusation would be The Champ's biggest disparagement that would constantly haunt him in years to come.
Leading up to UFC 135, media obligations were once more rampant. This time, another fan favorite, and former Light Heavyweight Champion, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, was poised to take on the task of defeating the man who was hailed as "The Next Generation" of fighters. In various interviews, Rampage, like many challengers to a belt before him, declared he would get the belt, actually in devastating fashion, with the much coveted KO. Likewise, Bones made a prediction of his own by stating he would be the first to submit Rampage. To some surprise, Jones received flack for this, but why is the better question. Is a prediction really worth hating the man? It was not like he stated he was the greatest thing since sliced bread and the world should bow before him. As we all know, Bones backed up his prediction, but not without controversy.
After the fight, Rampage was quite gracious in stating that he had now believed "the hype" surrounding The Champ and remarked how Jones "was for real," only to later bash Jones for his usage of a LEGAL technique called "The Oblique Kick." Due to Rampage's relentless banter regarding this, The Champ started to see a growing amount of vitriol aimed in his direction. My problem with it is: 1) How is damaging someone's knees any worse than giving them a concussion or long term brain damage from a KO (what Rampage desired to pull off) and; 2) with Rampage's history of excuses, some would deem whining, after losing fights, how could you NOT take whatever he says with a grain of salt (based on excuses such as Forrest not truly beating him due to Griffin's focus on predominately using leg kicks or Rashad holding him down repeatedly)? To The Champ's and his fans' chagrin, many detractors overlooked these arguments and used the "oblique kick is reprehensible" argument, let me repeat again- A LEGAL TECHNIQUE-in favor of hating Jones for, what I truly believe, beating another "fan favorite."
Like with Rampage, UFC 140 saw Jones victorious again, but not without trouble. As we all should recall, many were touting former Light Heavyweight Champion "The Dragon" as the first "true" test for The Champ based on his unorthodox striking, speed, and ability to counter-strike in practically any situation. "The Crazy Karate Blitz," as Rogan so fondly named it, was the possible strategy/way to not only give The Champ fits, but maybe even beat him. It is not too long ago that we can reminisce to Machida definitely getting the better of Jones in the first round of their fight (much to the glee of The Champ's detractors). However, after settling down, Jones began to find his timing and eventually took Machida down, in turn, opening him up with elbows. After being stood up and having the doctor clear Machida, Jones next dropped Machida with a left before locking on that standing guillotine that literally put "The Dragon" to bed.
Not too long afterwards, the same people who believed Machida to be the man to defeat Jones began making excuses. From what I remember, here are a couple: 1) "Jones won that fight because of his length. If he wasn't as big or long, Machida would have KO'd him" (a favorite amongst the detractors); 2) "Jones was afraid to stand with Machida and resorted to taking him down to desperately use elbows and go for a submission since he knew he was getting his ass handed to him standing up" (but before Jones got the submission, didn't he not only elect to stand with Machida but also drop him with a left?). Doesn't this trend look familiar? Beat another fan favorite and the hatred never ends. I didn't see people get angry when Machida sent Couture into retirement. Did many people get upset when Rich Franklin put Chuck Liddell to sleep? I'm actually surprised Jones didn't become a fan favorite himself after not only beating legends but also finishing them. I digress.
The time I believe the hatred of Jones came to a head is in the lead-up to, arguably, fighting his biggest opponent at the time, old training partner and former Light Heavyweight Champ, "Suga" Rashad Evans. This is the time when the hatred not only baffled but also truly stunned me. As some of you may know, Jones and Evans became very close when Jones came to Jackson-Winklejohn's Academy in Albuquerque, NM. It was a classic case of Evans being big brother to little brother Jones. As proof of their brotherhood, both made a pact to "never fight each other." Well, we all know how that turned out. Jones stated in an interview that "if the UFC really wanted me to fight Evans, I would." And just like that, the brotherhood ended.
To sum up the story, due to not only this pact being broken, but also, according to Evans, Greg Jackson favoring Jones, Evans left to create his own team in Boca Raton, FL, called "The Blackzilians." The lead up to UFC 145, where Evans and Jones would inevitably clash, was vicious and also the time I credit the "Jon Jones is fake" argument as really taking off. Evans, without restraint, declared The Champ "fake" in "pretending to be a brother" to then "go on television and break the pact." Evans relayed stories of how he bested Jones in practice, in which Jones responded in kind. What makes the hatred hypocrisy here is how people could side with Evans, a once very much disliked figure due to his own "brash" and "arrogant" ways (as seen first on TUF season 2), over Jones, a figure who time and time again attempted to be modest, but was known to be an "openly confident" fighter. The people disliked Evans for being that boastful figure but decided to hate Jones for not being open about "being himself," "a cocky individual" based off Evans's statement that The Champ's "modest" persona was fake. So if Jones was open about being "conceited" in the beginning, would he have been more liked or respected? I doubt it.
As we've all have come to see, the story of Jon Jones doesn't get any better. From the beginning of his reign as champ, Jones was about being a good example to kids and others. In essence, someone to be "idolized" based on his Christian values and how he held himself (or attempted to). When it came out on May 19, 2012 that Jones drove his Bentley into a pole due to drunk driving, his "idol" image took a huge hit. Without hesitation, his detractors swooped in like vultures to seize the opportunity to "justify" their beliefs of why he is fake and should be hated.
While I would never discount the opinions that The Champ's actions were extremely irresponsible, immature, and, most of all, dangerous, I will say only this, "some people deserve second chances." Yes, what Jones did was appalling to say the least and the potential for lives to be lost was at a high after his inappropriate decision to drive while being impaired. With that being said, let us look at the small positives (yes, there are some) from this DUI/DWI crash he was involved in: 1) Fortunately, no lives were lost; 2) he has fully cooperated with paying fines, adhering to his license suspension, etc.; 3) he has not broken any laws since then.
Let us face it, everybody makes mistakes. The severity from the mistakes differs from mistake to mistake, but in this certain case, I don't think Jon doesn't deserve some forgiveness. However, his detractors use this as means to gas the flames and raise Hell. The same fans who were quick to downplay Rampage's OJ Simpson impression when he sped away from police, equally endangering lives like Jones did the morning of May 19, 2012. The same fans who were quick to ignore Sonnen's money laundering conviction, and later, his first failed drug test after his fight with Anderson Silva. Hypocrisy at its finest. Like I said, people make mistakes. I profess though, if you will use one mistake as a means to hate a fighter, then you should equally use mistakes other fighters make as means to hate them too.
I mentioned earlier that The Champ's beef with Evans brought the hatred to a head, but where the hatred reached the stars is probably what Jones is most famous for (according to his detractors) and that is the infamous UFC 151 event that never took place. Let's just get this out the way. Yes, Jon Jones was the first champ in history to refuse to fight a replacement on short notice in order to save an event after Dan Henderson injured himself. Afterwards, UFC 151 was cancelled marking this as the first cancelled event in the history of the UFC. With that being said, I ask, should Jones REALLY shoulder all the blame?
Firstly, let's examine the main fight card. The co-main event was Jake Ellenberger vs Jay Hieron. Do you need me to repeat that? While Jake was a top welterweight at the time, he was far from being recognized among casual MMA fans and in no way had the star power to uphold a PPV as a main event fighter. Let us examine the other fights on the card: Dennis Siver vs Eddie Yagin (Siver's second fight at Featherweight before becoming a contender a little later on vs virtually a little to unknown fighter), Dennis Hallman vs Thiago Tavares (a vet vs a pretty decent Lightweight), and John Lineker vs Yasuhiro Urushitani (a Flyweight bout during the building stages of the Flyweight division). My point? NONE OF THESE FIGHTERS HAD MAINSTREAM APPEAL. How many times have headliners pulled out due to injuries and the main event have one replacement OR the co-main to be moved up to the main? This was a case of poor fight making by Joe Silva and allowance of such a counter-productive action by the Fertitta brothers and Dana White. I mean honestly, how could you market one of the pound-for-pound best fighters in the world with a horrid card like that? No one in his/her right mind would buy a PPV for just that one fight, even if it was a title fight.
Many of the detractors argue that Jones should have taken Sonnen on with eight days notice because he would have been at a great advantage and Sonnen was a middleweight moving up. Let me just say this, those same people would have made an excuse for Sonnen had Jones taken the fight and beat him then, using that same logic to bash Jones for "taking advantage of a middleweight on eight days notice." Hypocrisy! Yes, Anderson Silva stepped up to fight Stephan Bonnar and it was admirable. However, he also moved up a division and had NO RISK of losing his belt. Ask yourself, why should Jones have fought Sonnen, a man who hadn't fought at Light Heavyweight for five years and a man who not even remotely deserved to get that title shot? How can anyone argue The Champ's logic in stating the obvious which was, "He doesn't deserve it"?
Following the UFC 151 fiasco, Jones accepted a bout with former Light Heavyweight Champ Vitor Belfort at UFC 152. Due to the unfortunate cancellation of UFC 151, hatred for Bones was at an all time high, making Vitor the closest thing to the second coming of Christ and popular pick to dethrone The Champ. At this point, a change in Jon could be noted. He started to accept the hatred, instead of letting it bother him. He stopped trying so hard to have a modest image and please everybody. He started to not care. This is evinced by the fact when he was booed at the weigh-ins and performed a little Roman-like "Thumbs up, Thumbs down" to the crowd. Quite frankly, Jones out-and-out started to have fun with this newfound overflow of hatred when he came out to Bob Marley's "Can You Be Loved" song as his opener. It was as if he challenged the detractors by saying, "If you are going to boo me, I dare you to do it while Bob is playing."
After Jones defeated Belfort, praise for Jones showing tremendous grit to escape the first-round armbar of Belfort was overshadowed by the excuses made for why Belfort lost/Jones won. Excuses such as, "Vitor is a middleweight and beating him doesn't prove anything for Jon. He was SUPPOSED to win and it took him four rounds when it took Anderson one." In his entire career, this was the first time The Champ was actually in danger. The fact he overcame it was soon placed in the shadows.
It wasn't long until The Champ's next fight was announced. After coaching TUF season 17, Jones was to fight newly minted title challenger, Chael "The American Gangster" Sonnen at UFC 159. Many people felt, like how he did with Anderson, Chael was going to takedown The Champ. I mean, how could he not? He was an All-American in Division One wrestling for the University of Oregon and an Olympic alternate. However, that wasn't the case. Not only did Jones squash any takedown attempts from Sonnen but he eventually took "The American Gangster" down and controlled the fight at will before finishing Sonnen at the end of the first. Suddenly, the man with "the wrestling pedigree to stop Jones" became "a middleweight who Jones was clearly larger than and should have beaten." I wonder if Jon had lost the bout what the resulting opinions would have been? I can imagine too many that just don't seem at all objective.
Now we have reached one of the most interesting parts of the article, the talk of UFC 165, The Champ's first test vs a man, in Alexander "The Mauler" Gustafsson, with just as long reach (81.2 inches as stated by himself) and an inch taller in height. Before this fight, Jones had never faced a person with similar dimensions to his own. Regardless, the odds for Jones were quite high. Even The Champ's biggest detractors wrote off "The Mauler." And what happened? Magic my friend.
Nearly shocking the whole world, Gustafsson not only nearly defeated Jones (in some people's eyes, he did) but also battered The Champ, being the first to truly test Jones. And what resulted afterwards? New life for Jones's detractors. Biased opinions against The Champ ran fervent such as, "See! Jones was never that good! He faced someone his size and got beaten up. He would have never been champ for this long if others had similar reach." The last I recall, Stefan Struve wasn't champ of the Heavyweight Division. I even doubt Struve would have got through pretty much any of the people Jones beat during his title reign for that matter and he has the same reach as Jones and is seven inches taller, making him the tallest man in the UFC. Easy to ignore that fact in favor of one's argument against The Champ. What just doesn't stop shocking me is how Jones's detractors belittled him after that war of a fight. I mean, I felt the man was a true warrior who dug deep in the late rounds and showed great heart in his effort, irrespective of the official decision. I can understand people saying Jones got wrecked but Gustafsson wasn't exactly in top condition either afterwards. I just don't understand, withholding one's opinion of Jones as a person, how could you hate him as a fighter? Many just plainly wanted to see Jon get tested before UFC 165 to see if he had "heart" and when he finally did, proving he has a true Champion's spirit, detractors glossed over that fact in screaming "Robbery!" Hey, it is not as if Jones made the official decision so it makes little sense to hate the man more because of it.
Following the fight, unbridled outcries for a rematch traveled the airwaves after it was announced Jones won by Unanimous Decision in the eyes of three judges. When Glover Teixeira was announced as The Champ's next opponent, an uproar was made. Teixeira, a contender many had originally wanted to see face Jones due to his aggressive style, reminiscent of his mentor and friend, UFC Hall of Famer Chuck Liddell, instantly was tossed to the wayside by the fans in favor of the rematch. No matter the support for the rematch, it wasn't to be. Not until after UFC 172.
Originally Jones had been scheduled to face Teixeira at UFC 169, which was rescheduled a couple times for 170, 171, and eventually settled for 172 in Baltimore. Many detractors of Jones stated Jon was being "soft" for taking extra time to recover from his fight with Alexander. I guarantee a very large margin of those detractors have not and will never step foot in a cage, so for them to not only deem a UFC fighter but also the pound-for-pound #1 fighter in the world "soft" is nothing short of both hypocrisy and a travesty. Before we knew it, UFC 172 rolled around and the performance Jones put on was, in Dana White's opinion, "The best performance of his career." But that performance wasn't, yet again, without its detractors.
One of the biggest criticisms was Jones's eye pokes. People claimed Jones got both an unfair advantage, as it made Teixeira more hesitant to engage, and that Jones performed the eye pokes "on purpose," in turn, ignoring the fact that Jones was dominating Teixeira BEFORE they occurred. Yes, without a doubt, eye pokes/groin shots/rabbit punches CAN change the outcome of a fight. However, how many fights have really been truly defined by those infractions? How many fighters (besides Alan Belcher at the hands of Michael Bisping) have actually blamed their losses on those infractions? Seriously contemplate that these guys, at the highest level of MMA, train for these minor setbacks and are taught how to overcome them. There is no way to anticipate when they happen. Nevertheless, most of the time, they happen by accident so people shouldn't be quick to make Jones to be the exception to that fact when many other fighters have performed these infractions by accident as well.
Recently, what has really gotten my attention is detractors have been pointing to Jones's immature responses to THEM when posting videos mocking their criticisms. While I don't necessarily condone his behavior, can you blame him? The detractors were the same people saying he was "fake" for trying to be humble, not bad mouth his opponent, attempting to come off as a nice guy who values his fans and family and not follow the over-saturated meathead mentality we are plagued by in this great sport. Now that he wears "The Black Hat" his detractors have so passionately created for him, he is still being hated. I just don't understand. Isn't this what people wanted? For him to be a little "real?" Now he is and still continually being heavily scrutinized and most of all hated. The hypocrisy is sickening.
I am not saying you have to love the man or even be a fan, but to blatantly hate him for reasons I have pointed out as showing a double standard is just down right despicable. For instance, why is it, according to the Jones detractors, Jones is fully responsible for the stare down brawl with Daniel Cormier recently? I don't remember people being pissed off when Nick Diaz put his forehead on BJ Penn or Miesha Tate doing the same to Rousey in Strikeforce? But when Jones did it to Daniel, he is in the wrong? So Jones, who followed in a, somewhat, commonly used stare down technique is the terrible one and Daniel Cormier is free of blame, in spite of him pushing Jon in the throat? Again, doesn't make much sense to me. Was Jon right to throw a punch after? No, but I could understand that after being pushed in the throat, I'd be pretty upset enough to swing on someone as well.
In conclusion, the ULTIMATE reason why I feel there is hypocrisy in hating Jon Jones boils down to people not truly knowing who he is and making assumptions about him based off of overwhelming negative feedback from the faction of the MMA community that really despises him for many reasons I don't believe make complete sense. Fear of the unknown breeds hatred. And the hatred can be for things people love other fighters, or even, regular people for. "Jones is only good because of his physical gifts." Well how about the physical gifts other fighters have, who are not as successful as him, such as Roy Nelson and his almighty chin? "Jones is fake." Do you know him personally? "Jones is a cheat and intentionally uses dirty methods to win fights." Is this based off legitimate fighter testimony or your "findings" from watching a couple of fights? I guess when he wins without any infractions, he just gets lucky too, right? Or no, it was just because he was bigger right? "Gus proved when Jones faces someone his size, he gets destroyed and can't handle the challenge." So I guess Brock Lesnar didn't face any smaller competition before he fought Shane Carwin and overcame the challenge, eh? I guess smaller competition has NEVER beaten bigger ones like Hunt vs Struve, correct? "Jones is arrogant." And how many fighters do people care about that are actually humble besides GSP, Mighty Mouse and Cain?
I have come to the resounding summation that most people hate Jones, because (I REALLY hate using this term), point simply being, they are "haters." People who don't have anything else to do besides hate a man for being successful and impressive at a sport they desire to actually be a part of or be better at. People who find comfort in creating irrational (sometimes), contradicting (sometimes) reasons to hate a man because he lost you money (betting against him, consequently your own fault) or because he did something you didn't exactly agree with (like act humorously sarcastic at a Q&A). People who find it easier to hate a man many others incomprehensibly hate him for.
I am no Jones nut hugger or whatever. Just an MMA fan who respects the Champ, enjoys his fights, and fails to comprehend why he is as hated as he is. And if I am to be denounced because of it, then so be it.