As Jon Jones approaches his 32nd birthday and the tenth time in his career to defend his UFC Light Heavyweight Championship, fans remain divided on his legacy as the greatest to ever step foot in the octagon.
Through his sagas with Daniel Cormier, his wins over Alexander Gustafsson and his destruction of sporting legends Mauricio Rua, Lyoto Machida and Vitor Belfort, there’s clearly no argument that he’s the most talented fighter seen in the world’s leading combat sports promotion.
We’ve been through the good times, but we’ve seen the other side of Jones throughout his career. Failed drug tests for the use of cocaine back in 2015, a hit-and-run incident that left a pregnant woman injured a year later followed by further anti-doping violations for anabolic steroid Turinabol and hormone and metabolic modulators.
Jon Jones is currently still testing positive for traces of M3 metabolite within his system, which the UFC and anti-doping provider USADA are describing as “pulsing”. It marks a bizarre series of events in the promotion, with a fighter effectively consistently testing positive for use of metabolites, but still allowing him to compete.
The light-heavyweight king has seemingly curbed his disciplinary issues outside of the octagon and has become a positive figure in his local community and a role model to fighters training at the famed Jackson Wink gym. The feud between him and Daniel Cormier has settled down, with his former rival currently holding the UFC Heavyweight crown and approaching the final stages of his career.
Brazil’s former middleweight turned light heavyweight contender Thiago Santos is the next man to challenge Jones in a shallow division at 205lbs, and many are overlooking the heavy-handed Brazilian as the next man to fall at the impenetrable task of defeating Jon Jones.
A win for Jones ties him with fellow ‘GOAT’ contender Georges St-Pierre for wins in UFC title bouts. His thirteen-fight winning streak dating back to a controversial DQ loss to Matt Hammill is the second-longest in UFC history, with the promotion looking to overturn that loss, with Jones than regaining the famed 0 on his record.
He remains the youngest UFC champion of all time, having won the title over eight years ago at twenty-three years old. Many have expected Jones to move to heavyweight, with Jones having beaten the majority of contenders in the light heavyweight division. Could the trilogy bout with Daniel Cormier see Jones attempt to become a two-weight world champion?
Thiago Santos is overlooked as a serious contender, despite holding fifteen knockouts in his twenty-one wins. The Brazilian has won just three fights at light heavyweight, but these have all been knockouts inside the last ten months. Jones will hold a gargantuan eight-and-a-half inch reach advantage, something he holds over most of his opponents and the key to victory for Santos will likely be to try and finish Jones in the opening two rounds.
Jones’ case as the greatest to ever to do it all comes down to your perception of the term. If we’re talking about ability and dominance then there’s no doubt that he holds that mantle, but if we’re discussing clean sport, a role model figure and lack of controversy then his stake to the claim becomes slightly jarred.
The likes of Georges St. Pierre, Anderson Silva and Daniel Cormier are all names that come into the discussion, but with Silva having anti-doping issues of his own, as well as one win in the last seven years, it likely eliminates the Brazilian from the discussion. Cormier can seem to defeat every challenger in the octagon apart from his perennial rival Jon Jones.
Jones likely still has another five years in the octagon as a minimum, with his argument likely to strengthen as long as he can keep performing and stay out of the headlines for the wrong reasons.
In two to three years time, it’s likely that we won’t be discussing other contenders, but fully declaring Jon Jones as the greatest to ever do it.
Who gets your vote?