An Open Letter to Jon Jones

Matthew Ryder@@matthewjryderFeatured ColumnistSeptember 1, 2017

ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 29:  Jon Jones celebrates after defeating Daniel Cormier in their UFC light heavyweight championship bout during the UFC 214 event inside the Honda Center on July 29, 2017 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

Dear Jon,

I don't feel good. Not too many people feel good, actually.

Not after you've failed your second drug test in as many Daniel Cormier bookings, and not in light of some of the things that have led us to this point.

It's not even that fans are mad anymore. There's not much outrage; there isn't even much surprise.

People just don't feel good. They're either flustered, baffled or downright disappointed. Even Cormier, who you've handed the only two losses of his professional career, doesn't know what to think.

It's like when you were a kid and you'd do something wrong. Your parents would say "We're not mad, we're just disappointed," and you'd feel even worse than if they had yelled at you. That's kind of where you are.

They want so much from you. They want what you're capable of giving because you've given it to them since before you could legally grab an ale at a local watering hole.

They want to see you be the best to ever compete in this sport because that's what you were long before things went off the rails. They want to watch you dismantle foes with systematic ferocity only ever seen in the absolute greatest to fight for sport.

They want to watch you excel. And, outside the cage, you haven't.

You haven't, and you haven't, and you haven't.

It's just so damn disappointing.

It's disappointing because your fans have stood by you through it all, arguing you're just a man and your imperfections are shared by so many others who are fortunate enough not to have cameras and media magnifying them at every turn.

It's disappointing because you've said, time and again, that this time is different and this mistake is the one you've learned from. Then you go and shout with your actions to dwarf what you said with your words.

It's disappointing because this ridiculous carnival sport needs you, needs a name other than Conor McGregor to garner attention amid the sea of faceless fighters signed to fill up a UFC Fight Kit on a Saturday night.

But it looks like that disappointment is all that's left. It's the only thing that matters, particularly if the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has its way.

This is not to shame you.

The independence and stubbornness you'd have needed to achieve such heights in MMA are the same traits that would surely have you not care what this letter suggests.

This is about understanding what you've meant to this sport and what you should mean to it going forward.

You're not, as Joe Rogan so eloquently put it, the "number one f--kup of all time" because your story isn't yet fully written. You are, in parts, the worst aspects of what Rogan and other detractors suggest because you have the track record to prove it, but it's not uniform and it's not a lost cause.

There is plenty of greatness that warrants attention in your legacy, and there's room for more.

Inside the cage, even with serious USADA punishments potentially coming, you'll be back should you choose to be. You'll be back at an age when the great Anderson Silva was just starting to take off on his unstoppable run. If you move to heavyweight, you'll be back right as you're hitting peak age to take over the division.

You'll have a chance at a redemption story unlike any in combat sports history because your path to that redemption has been equally unlike any in combat sports history.

Outside the cage, you'll have a chance to be a champion for awareness of the pitfalls of fame and fortune at a young age. You've been there and handled it as problematically as anyone could have expected, and you can speak about it and mentor those coming behind you in hopes of saving them from themselves.

You'll have a chance to follow many combat sports greats who have made a graceful transition into their late careers and retirements after rocky periods as competitors. After all, if Mike Tyson can rebound from notoriety to produce a respected one-man show and lovable cartoon character, why couldn't your image one day rebound as well?

So, Jon, all is not lost.

These are bad times for you, for the UFC, for the sport.

Few people wanted this for you, and few want this for you now. Friend or foe, all most people ever wanted was to see you perform at the highest level of the game—either to watch you be unbeatable or to watch the next guy in line and see if he was the one to do it.

Turns out the one to do it was you. Dana warned us it might be this way (though he also called your much-respected head coach a "sport-killer" once, so it's easy to see why you might dismiss some of his bluster as promotional hyperbole).

Now you turn this corner into the final leg of your career. Maybe—hopefully—you'll be exonerated and back in action; maybe you'll have to wait a while to throw hands professionally once again. Either way, though, it's the leg of your career that will afford you the chance to set many things straight and get out of the game the right way.

That's what people would feel good about. It's what people want.

Hopefully you can give it to them.

          

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