UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones should consider himself to be that much closer to mainstream star status. He's reached a point where his every move is criticized and debated among “experts” within the world of mixed martial arts. His latest social media issues has the whole MMA community talking about in him an interesting fashion. Whether it's Daniel Cormier or Alexander Gustafsson standing across from him in his next Octagon appearance, the fact remains that Jon Jones should embrace his role as a hated champion.
In the last few days Jones seemed unable to escape controversy, even though he's sitting on the sideline.
First, there is the situation in which the 26-year-old champion still has not signed a renewal deal with the Ultimate Fighting Championship. The promotion hopes to have Jones face off against Gustafsson in a rematch of their 2013 critically acclaimed fight towards the end of 2014. However, the champion refuses to sign the proposed deal for reasons that have not been released.
What Jones has made public is the fact that he would like to face Daniel Cormier instead of Alexander. This move has brought about the ire of the sports' fanbase who claim he is ducking the man that nearly beat him at UFC 165. This is where the second controversy comes into play.
Jones took to Instagram to express his disbelief in the way fans have responded to his desire to fight Cormier instead of Gustafsson. Cormier is an undefeated fighter who has come down from heavyweight and has been calling out Jones for the span of months. Jake Silver of Bleacher Report caught the video right after the champion deleted it in which he gives snide remarks towards those who have claimed he is ducking the Swedish contender.
The validity of the statement aside, this is yet another situation in which Jones has placed himself in a position to be hated by fight fans. Since winning the title back in 2011, there has been a consistent stream of criticism sent Jones' way. Whether it's the comments about him being “fake,” to his DUI arrest and his complaining about not being properly promoted as mentioned by Yahoo Sports' Paul Putignano, Jones continues to mess up when it comes to becoming endeared by the fans.
That's where the real issue lies. In the end, Jones should not care what the public thinks of him as a professional. His job is to walk into the Octagon and compete and doing everything within the rules to keep the title around his waist. What fans think of him as a person outside of the cage is a moot point. In fact, Jones should truly embrace the role of the bad guy in an attempt to maximize his earning potential as a professional athlete.
For an example of someone who's already made such a transition, one has to look only as far as Floyd “Money” Mayweather. The boxing kingpin was once a “good guy” in boxing when he carried the nickname “Pretty Boy.” However, that never translated into financial success for the fighter. When he embraced his heel role and became the boisterous personality that he is today, the hatred for this persona grew. His bank account did at the same time. Now, Floyd is one of the highest-earning athletes each year and that trend continues to grow.
Jones doesn't have to go to such great extents to build the same reputation, but as long as he continues to perform in the cage there isn't any reason why he should work so hard for fans to love him. They have already proven that it will not happen no matter how dominant he is in the cage. Continuing to win while no longer trying to work so hard to say the right thing will have an impact on Jones's career both in and outside of the Octagon.
A few weeks back, Jon Jones was complaining that he wasn't as well promoted as athletes such as Ronda Rousey. This latest Instagram problem should be the last straw that pushes the current champion into a full heel personality. If fight fans don't want to like him for whatever reason, then embrace it. This isn't professional wrestling but there is value in being hated by the paying viewers. The point is for Jones to build himself into a fighter that the people will pay to see for one reason or another. There are those who will pay to see him win and those that will pay to see him lose. The end result is that he will make the most out of his career, regardless what the people say about him as a person.