The hate for UFC light heavyweight champion Jon "Bones" Jones didn't start with the DUI he received for crashing his Bentley, if you can believe it.
Did it play a role in why so many people all of a sudden dislike the man? Absolutely, and there's justification in that. Drunk driving kills more than other regulated substances such as marijuana and tobacco, and although nobody was found injured when Jones got his DUI, people could've died for sure.
However, for MMA fans with a longer memory, let's revisit last year—when Jones came off of a win over Vladimir Matyushenko at UFC on Versus 2 and finally got Ryan Bader at UFC 126. As we all remember, Jones earned "Submission of The Night" for choking out Bader, who had carried an undefeated streak at the time. Sure, some people remained adamant that they would just never see the hype behind Jones, but nobody really hated Jones at the time.
Yes, there is a difference. You don't have to hate a fighter to not see their hype.
Anyway, after the Bader fight, everything changed for Jones. Then-contender Rashad Evans was set to fight then-champion Mauricio "Shogun" Rua for the light-heavyweight title, but in the post-fight interview with Jones, UFC commentator Joe Rogan broke the news that Evans was injured. Jones' response changed the face of MMA as we knew it then and helped to shape it into what we know now.
It's not so much that Jones went on to thoroughly defeat Rua and then defeat Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and Lyoto Machida in that same year, but rather, what happened outside of the cage that caused Jones to go from beloved to hated (somewhat).
Jones signed autographs as the champion before he even faced Rua. As early plans to line Jones up with Evans fell through in the wake of the inevitable fallout between the two, fans felt as though Jones' public humility started to prove less genuine as his star grew, despite Jones' statements to the contrary.
Of course, the DUI did more harm than help in the matter—not that getting that Bentley in the first place got him exactly "close" to returning to most fans' good graces anyway.
When it comes to Jones' UFC 151 bout with Dan Henderson, it's less clear as to how many people are truly supporting Henderson out of hatred for Jones, with consideration to the legitimate respect MMA fans do have for Henderson and his obvious legacy as one of the greatest American combat sports athletes of this or any other generation.
Though, it's not unfathomable that fans will speak out and claim to hope for another highlight-reel knockout from the PRIDE legend if it means getting one step closer to never hearing about Jones again.
In any event, regardless of how much fans actually hate Jones, there is little question as to how much things have changed in the past year in regards to Jones. Though many will not leave his momentum train with a loss to Henderson, some fans will find themselves smiling a bit wider if Jones should lose his title next weekend.
As for the event of a Jones win...well, if Jones defeats Henderson, perhaps it may silence a few haters. At least, it will until the morning after UFC 151.
Then, we get to start all over again.
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