Former UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones‘ suspension ends in July. The once top pound-for-pound fighter in the world is expected to return to the Octagon later this year. No fighter has been able to defeat “Bones,” except himself. The 29-year-old New York native is the only fighter in UFC history to be stripped of a title twice.
Jones successfully defended the 205-pound title eight times, which included a win over current titleholder Daniel Cormier at UFC 182. He was scheduled to face Anthony Johnson in the UFC 187 main event in May 2015, but was removed from the bout and stripped of the belt after his involvement in a hit-and-run traffic incident. After resolving his legal issues stemming from the hit-and-run, Jones returned to the cage against Ovince Saint Preux at UFC 197 and captured the interim 205-pound championship.
Bout agreements were signed for a title unification bout and rematch with Cormier to headline UFC 200. Jones was forced to withdraw from the event after testing positive to banned substances during an out-of-competition test administered prior to the scheduled fight. He was suspended by the Nevada State Athletic Commission for a year and stripped of a UFC title for the second time.
During his time away from fighting, Jones has realized what he nearly threw away. The youngest fighter to ever win a UFC championship says that he’s turned over a new leaf.
“The time off has been great. I think you don’t really appreciate what you have until you don’t have it anymore. This last year has given me a lot of time to realize how great my life was and how bad I want it back,” he said during a press conference in New York.
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“Since I’ve been gone, I really had the opportunity to look at my career from a fan’s perspective almost instead of being in it. I just realized just how special of a career that I have had, and how incredibly hard of a career that I’ve had. I think my resume – I’ve beaten some of the toughest guys in our sport’s history,” he added.
Jones has been sponsored by mainstream brands like Nike. He’s been featured in nationally aired commercials. That all disappeared after the hit-and-run. He knows it’s going to be an uphill battle to get back what he once had.
“All the endorsements that I’ve had, and all the things that I’ve lost, it really hits you when you don’t have a lot of this stuff. Not only does it make you realize how much work you put in to get that, it makes you realize how hard it’s going to be to get that stuff back,” said the former champion.
“I just realized that I had a lot, and it hurts to not have it. And I know how much work it’s going to take to get it back. I’m just more grateful now for the things that I’ve been able to accomplish than when I was back when I was accomplishing them.”