It was around 1 a.m. on Thursday when officer Jason Brown from the Albuquerque police department responded to a single gunshot on 3rd St and Central Avenue. The officer arrived to find Jon Jones seated in a black Jeep with the engine running, a near-empty bottle of mezcal on the floor behind the passenger’s seat and a handgun under the driver’s seat.
According to Brown’s report, Jones had a “green leafy substance on his shirt and pants, consistent with marijuana” and a “strong odor of alcohol coming from his facial area”. He performed poorly on three field sobriety tests and his breathalyzer tests showed him “at or above twice the legal limit.” He was searched and arrested on four different counts, including aggravated DWI, negligent use of a firearm, possession of open container, and no proof of insurance in vehicle.
This is far from the first time that the Jones has been in trouble with the law. The UFC champion was charged with a DWI in 2012 after smashing his Bentley into a utility pole in New York. Then, in April 2015, Jones was involved in a felony hit-and-run where he fled the scene after hitting a pregnant woman’s car. The woman had sustained injuries from the accident, but, according to witnesses, Jones fled the scene after shoving cash in his pockets. Despite facing 18 months in jail for the felony, Jones avoided jail time and instead received 18 months of supervised probation.
Unfortunately for Jones, his problems did not end there. While on probation for his felony charge in 2016, Jones was stopped in Albuquerque and given five tickets, including one for drag racing. The well-documented incident was captured on body cam footage.
Then, in October 2019, Jones took a plea deal after pleading no contest to disorderly conduct in an incident with a cocktail waitress at a strip club. He had originally pleaded not guilty to a charge of battery after being accused of kissing and choking the waitress before slapping her in the genital region.
Beyond his string of arrests and concerning legal incidents, Jones has also failed two separate drug tests administered by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), which facilitates testing for the UFC. He was suspended on both occasions.
However, Jones’s latest incident raises some concerning alarms regarding the UFC champion’s mental health. In the body cam footage distributed by the Bernalillo County district attorney, Jones appeared to be distraught and revealed that he was “scared for his family”.
“I have anxiety. I have anxiety,” Jones repeated while the officer appeared to cuff him. “Would you guys just allow me to take off my hoodie? Please?…Please, please, because my anxiety gets so bad…”
The candid footage allows viewers a peak behind the curtain at Jones distressed state, his apparent intoxication, and some of the underlying familial and mental health issues that may be plaguing him. It is also the latest example of Jones’s downward trajectory – a spiral that encapsulates every aspect of his life outside of the UFC octagon, where he remains champion.
Earlier this week, Jones pleaded guilty to a DWI and will avoid jail time as long as he follows the terms of a plea agreement. According to the agreement, Jones will serve 96 consecutive hours in a county Community Custody Program, complete 48 hours of community service, pay a $500 fine, and will remain on supervised probation for a year. He will also wear an ankle bracelet that will track his movements. All the other charges against him, including negligent use of a firearm and possession of an open container of alcohol, were dropped.
Afterwards, Jones released a public statement, where he admitted to an “unhealthy relationship with alcohol”:
“While we all work to understand and cope with stress and uncertainties surrounding the current state of our world, I want to express how truly disappointed I am that I have become the source of a negative headline again, especially during these trying times,” Jones said. “I am disappointed for letting down the people I care about the most – my family, friends and my fans. This morning I entered into a plea deal with the Albuquerque DA’s office. I accept full responsibility for my actions, and I know that I have some personal work to do to which involves the unhealthy relationship I have with alcohol.”
Despite Jones’s admission and the concerning footage, it remains unclear whether Jones will receive the help he needs from either the legal system or the organization that employs him. While several fighters have openly criticized and mocked Jones following his latest run-in with the law, the champion’s bitter rival, Daniel Cormier, did not see this as a cause for celebration, instead imploring the UFC to get involved to help Jones.
“I think the UFC needs to save him,” Cormier told ESPN. “Keep him, but then really try to help him try to get better.”
While the UFC has stripped Jones of his light heavyweight title in the past, it was not always due to his legal troubles. Jones was first stripped of the title in 2015 following the felony hit-and-run charge. Then, in 2016, Jones was stripped of the interim title after failing a pre-fight drug test in connection with his title unification bout scheduled for UFC 200. In September 2017, Jones was stripped for a third time after he tested positive for the banned steroid turinabol.
When Jones was stripped of the interim title in 2016, UFC president Dana White revealed that he would “never take the risk of headlining a show with Jon Jones again”. Since then, Jones has headlined five separate events, including as recently as UFC 247 in February 2020. Given how quickly White reconsidered his ruling on Jones, and the UFC limited action with regards to Jones’s legal trouble, it is unlikely that the promotion will take any action against the UFC champion for his latest infraction.
It is evidently clear that the 32-year-old fighter is in need of help for his potential mental health issues and substance abuse. And while the NHL has a player assistance program and the NFL has an intervention program, the UFC does not appear to have such a program in place. Yet given that the greatest fighter in a generation is in dire need of some serious help, it might be time for the UFC to implement such a program.