Jonathan Dwight Jones (born July 19, 1987) is an American professional mixed martial artist who is signed with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Widely regarded as one of the greatest mixed martial artists, he is the current and two-time undisputed UFC Light Heavyweight Champion. He has been champion since December 29, 2018, and previously held the title from March 20, 2011, to April 28, 2015. Jones also held the interim UFC Light Heavyweight Championship. As of August 19, 2019, he is #1 in the UFC men’s pound-for-pound rankings.
At age 23, with his victory over Maurício Rua in 2011, Jones became the youngest champion since the UFC instituted weight classes. He holds many UFC records in the light heavyweight division, including the most title defenses, most wins, longest win streak, and most submission victories. During much of his championship reign, Jones has been widely considered to be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. Never stopped nor outscored during his career, Jones’s only professional loss is a controversial disqualification against Matt Hamill, a result that Hamill and UFC President Dana White dispute.
Between 2015 and 2017, Jones was involved in several controversies and lost his title three times as a result of disciplinary action. He was first stripped of his title and removed from the official rankings by the UFC in 2015 after he was arrested on felony hit-and-run charges. His subsequent returns to the UFC in 2016 and 2017 saw him emerge victorious in title bouts against Ovince Saint Preux and Daniel Cormier, but were both cut short by Jones testing positive for banned substances and receiving further suspensions, with the latter reversed to a ‘no contest’. After his 2017 suspension was lifted, Jones reclaimed the championship in 2018 by defeating Alexander Gustafsson and successfully defended it in his three following fights.
Jones was born on July 19, 1987 in Rochester, New York. His father Arthur is a pastor at Mount Sinai Church of God in Christ in Binghamton, New York. Arthur discouraged Jon’s fighting career, “I wanted him to preach. I tried to discourage him from being a fighter. I told him you don’t want to do that. You can do other things. Be a pastor.” Jon’s mother, Camille, died in 2017 at the age of 55, after a long battle with diabetes.
Jon was one of four children. His older brother, Arthur, is a former American football defensive lineman who played for the Baltimore Ravens, Indianapolis Colts and Washington Redskins, while his younger brother, Chandler, is an outside linebacker for the Arizona Cardinals. His older sister, Carmen, died of a brain tumor before her eighteenth birthday.
Mixed martial arts career
Before beginning his MMA career, Jones was a stand-out high school wrestler and state champion at Union-Endicott High Schoolin upstate New York. He also played football as a defensive lineman; due to his slight frame, his coach nicknamed him “Bones”. He won a national JUCO championship at Iowa Central Community College. After transferring to Morrisville State College to study Criminal Justice, he dropped out of college to begin his MMA career.
Jones made his professional MMA debut in April 2008. He amassed an undefeated record of 6–0 over a period of three months, finishing all of his opponents. In his last bout before signing with the UFC, Jones defeated Moyses Gabin at BCX 5 for the USKBA Light Heavyweight Championship. He won the fight via TKO in the second round.
Ultimate Fighting Championship
Debut and rise to contender status
Jones made his UFC debut against Andre Gusmão at UFC 87 on August 9, 2008. Jones had accepted the deal on two weeks’ notice as a late replacement for Tomasz Drwal. He put on an impressive performance, using takedowns and displaying unorthodox striking, such as spinning elbows and a spinning back kick. Jones won by unanimous decision (30–27, 29–28, and 30–27).
In his second UFC match, Jones took on veteran Stephan Bonnar at UFC 94 on January 31, 2009. Jones showed superior wrestling abilities, executing strong takedowns as well as throws including a suplex. Again showing unorthodox striking as he had in his debut, Jones secured one of Bonnar’s legs and landed a back-elbow that nearly knocked out his opponent during the first round. Although he appeared to tire in the third round, Jones held on to win another unanimous decision (30–27, 29–28, and 29–28) victory.
Jones’s third fight was against Jake O’Brien at UFC 100 on July 11, 2009. Jones controlled the majority of the match and eventually secured a modified guillotine choke, causing O’Brien to tap out. In September 2009, Jones was rewarded for his victories by signing a new, four-fight contract with the UFC.
On December 5, 2009, Jones fought fellow light heavyweight prospect Matt Hamill at The Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights Finale. Despite dominating the fight, Jones was disqualified for the use of multiple 12-6 elbows. The Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Artsprohibited downward elbow strikes, and Jones was initially only penalized a point from the round. However, because Hamill could not continue due to a dislocated shoulder, Jones was disqualified for those strikes. Consequently, the replay simulation was reviewed, and showed that Jones’s elbows further damaged Hamill’s already bloody and lacerated nose. This marked the first time that Nevada has used its recently enacted instant replay rule, in which the referee’s decision was supported by the commission, which utilized a slow-motion replay to review the elbows. UFC president Dana White was aggrieved that referee Steve Mazagatti ruled the bout as a loss for Jones, saying that it should have been a no contest. In 2019, White said he was still attempting to have the result overturned to a no contest by the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
Jones fought Brandon Vera on March 21, 2010, at UFC Live: Vera vs. Jones. He won the fight by TKO after an elbow to Vera’s face followed up with various punches in the first round. The elbow delivered to stop the fight also broke Vera’s face in three places. Jones also won the “Knockout of the Night” award.
Jones defeated former IFL Light Heavyweight Champion Vladimir Matyushenko by TKO with elbows in 1:52 of the first round on August 1, 2010, at UFC Live: Jones vs. Matyushenko. Dana White promised Jones a “huge step-up in the competition”, if he managed to defeat Matyushenko. Following the match with Matyushenko, White said, “Vladimir Matyushenko is a guy who I have a lot of respect for and I didn’t think it was going to happen that easy. Jones is the real deal and he just catapulted himself tonight into the top eight in the world. Tonight solidified it. … He’s got to keep his head together, stay focused and keep doing all the right things in training. He’s smart, good looking and bad-ass. He’s going to make a lot of money — this kid is going to do very well.”
After defeating Matyushenko, Jones stated that he wanted a “top-three opponent” for his next fight. Jones mentioned in an interview with Inside MMA that he would be facing the winner of Antônio Rogério Nogueira vs. Ryan Bader. Reports that Jones had previously been offered a match with Nogueira, but turned it down, turned out to be false. In the Inside MMA interview, Jones also stated that he had been informed by Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta that if he finished his next two fights, he would likely receive a title shot.
White soon confirmed that Jones would face the undefeated Ultimate Fighter winner Ryan Bader, on February 5, 2011, at UFC 126. Jones handed Bader his first professional loss by defeating him via submission due to a guillotine choke in the second round after dominating Bader in the first round. Jones was awarded the “Submission of the Night” bonus.
Light Heavyweight Champion
Immediately after the bout with Bader, it was revealed that title contender and Jones’s training partner Rashad Evans had sustained a knee injury in training, and would not be able to compete in his scheduled match with UFC light heavyweight champion Maurício “Shogun” Rua. Jones was told by Joe Rogan in the post-fight interview that he would replace Evans in the fight for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship. On March 19, 2011, at UFC 128, Jones defeated Rua by TKO at 2:37 of Round 3, becoming the youngest ever UFC champion. After an early flying knee that badly hurt the champion, Shogun was dominated throughout the three rounds. A body shot and knee to the head dropped the champion to his knees, causing the referee to step in and halt the match.
Jones’s first title defense was expected to be on August 6, 2011, at UFC 133 against Rashad Evans, his former friend and teammate, but Jones was sidelined with a hand injury. It was initially announced that the hand injury would require surgery, but Jones opted for rest and rehabilitation without surgery after further consultations with doctors. Jones’s injury was originally thought to keep him out of action until late 2011, but he instead made his first title defence against Quinton Jackson on September 24, 2011, at UFC 135. Jones defeated Jackson via submission (rear-naked choke) at 1:14 in the 4th round. In the process, he became the first UFC fighter to submit Jackson. In 2012, Jones said that this was his favorite fight up to that point.
Jones vs. Evans was in the works for a second time, and a bout was targeted for December 10, 2011, at UFC 140. However, a lingering thumb injury cost another title opportunity for Evans, and Jones instead faced Lyoto Machida at the same event. Despite getting rocked in the first round by Machida, Jones successfully defended the light heavyweight title at UFC 140, stopping Machida at 4:26 of the second round via technical submission (guillotine choke), which caused Machida to collapse unconscious along the cage. This was the first submission loss in Machida’s career.
Jones finally faced his arch rival and former teammate Rashad Evans on April 21, 2012, at UFC 145, and won via unanimous decision (49–46, 49–46, and 50–45). During the UFC 145 post fight press conference, Dana White confirmed that Jones’s next opponent would be Dan Henderson. The Jones-Henderson fight was expected to take place at UFC 151, but Henderson pulled out of the bout due to injuries, Jones then refused a late replacement fight with Chael Sonnen after his coach Greg Jackson told him with three training days left, it would be pretty difficult to prepare. UFC 151 was then subsequently cancelled. It was later reported that Henderson was injured three weeks prior to the announcement, but kept the injury under wraps as he was still hoping to compete. However, he had to withdraw following a final sparring session to evaluate his condition.
Jones decision to decline the fight against Sonnen was criticized. In the 19-year history of the UFC, it was the first card to ever be canceled. UFC president Dana White went on record saying, “this is one of the most selfish, disgusting decisions that doesn’t just affect you. This is affecting 16 other lives, their families, kids are going back to school. The list goes on and on of all the things, the money that was spent for fighters to train and the list goes on and on. Like I said, I don’t think this is going to make Jon Jones popular with the fans, sponsors, cable distributors, television network executives or other fighters.”
A rematch with Lyoto Machida was then announced for September 22, 2012, at UFC 152. Lyoto Machida, who was not contacted prior to the announcement, rejected the fight due to the lack of time to train before the bout. Jones, instead, defended the championship against Vitor Belfort on September 22, 2012, at UFC 152. Jones opened as a massive favorite (13-to-1) coming into the bout.
Despite almost being submitted via armbar in round one, Jones successfully defended the belt against Belfort via americana submission in round four, and equaled Chuck Liddell‘s number of title defenses. Jones also won a $65,000 Submission of the Night bonus for his finish of Belfort.
Jones was chosen to coach opposite Chael Sonnen on Season 17 of the Ultimate Fighter. With a bout between the coaches taking place on April 27, 2013, at UFC 159. Jones displayed a lack of interest in the bout and actively downplayed the contest, making it clear that he did not believe Sonnen was a fit contender. In an interview, Sonnen did his best to garner interest in the bout, but Jones gave him the “silent treatment“, and refused to make eye contact. Jones made quick work of his challenger, finishing Sonnen via TKO in the first round. However, he dislocated a phalanx (big toe) on his left foot during the fight. With the win, Jones tied Tito Ortiz for having most consecutive title defences in UFC light heavyweight history.
Jones faced Alexander Gustafsson on September 21, 2013, at UFC 165. Jones was badly cut above the eye during the first round, but he won the back-and-forth fight via unanimous decision (48–47, 48–47, and 49–46). After the match, Jones said Gustafsson gave him the toughest fight of his career, and both were sent to the hospital for their injuries. Both men suffered lacerations and facial swelling, but were released from the hospital with no broken bones or serious injuries. The bout earned both fighters the Fight of the Night bonus award. The match received numerous positive reviews: “an epic battle”, “instant-classic”, “Fight of the Year”, “Greatest light heavyweight title fight of all-time”, “one of the greatest fights in UFC history”. On March 8, 2020, it was announced that the fight will be inducted to UFC Hall of Fame’s Fight Wing on July 9.
Jones was expected to take on Glover Teixeira on February 1, 2014, at UFC 169. However, on October 7, UFC President Dana White stated that the announcement for this fight on that card was premature and that Jones and Teixeira would face each other on a different card. On November 13, 2013, it was announced that Jones would fight Teixeira at UFC 170, scheduled for February 22, 2014, however the next day it was announced that the match had been removed from the card. On December 4, 2013, it was announced that Jones and Teixeira would face each other at UFC 171 on March 15, 2014, in Dallas, Texas, however, the fight was moved again. Jones and Teixeira finally fought on April 26, 2014, at UFC 172. Jones won the bout via unanimous decision (50–45, 50–45, and 50–45).
On April 27, 2014, UFC President Dana White confirmed that Jones would next have a rematch against Gustafsson, and stated the possibility of the match taking place in a stadium in Sweden on pay-per-view. On May 24, 2014, it was indicated that the rematch would take place in Las Vegas on August 30, 2014, at UFC 177. The statement, and the time and venue, was not official however, because Gustafsson was the only one who still had agreed to accept the match. On June 2, the fight was still on hold, and White explained the situation as “Jones doesn’t want to fight Gustafsson”, and instead expressed his preference for fighting Daniel Cormier.
On June 5, 2014, the UFC confirmed that the Jones vs. Gustafsson rematch would take place on September 27, 2014, at UFC 178. However, Gustafsson had to pull out of the match due to a torn meniscus. Jones was then expected to take on replacement Daniel Cormier at UFC 178. On August 12, 2014, it was announced that Jones had sustained a leg injury in training, causing him to withdraw. The bout was rescheduled, and eventually took place on January 3, 2015, at UFC 182. Jones won the fight by unanimous decision (49–46, 49–46, and 49–46). He also became the first person to take Cormier down, scoring three takedowns in total. The win also earned Jones his fourth Fight of the Night bonus award. It was later revealed that Jones had failed a drug test one month prior to the event, as he tested positive for cocaine. (see below in Controversies)
First suspension and return
Jones was expected to defend his title against Anthony Johnson on May 23, 2015, at UFC 187. However, on April 28, Jones was stripped of the belt and suspended from the UFC indefinitely in connection with a hit-and-run incident where he crashed into a pregnant woman then fled the scene on foot. Cormier, who lost against Jones at UFC 182 in January 2015, replaced him and went on to defeat Anthony Johnson to take the vacant UFC Light Heavyweight Championship.
On October 23, 2015, the UFC announced that Jones had been reinstated to the active roster, nearly six months after his suspension was announced. A rematch with Cormier was expected to take place on April 23, 2016, at UFC 197. However, Cormier pulled out of the fight on April 1, citing a foot injury, and was replaced by Ovince Saint Preux. Jones defeated Saint Preux by unanimous decision (50–44, 50–45, and 50–45).
Second suspension and return
The rematch with Cormier was rescheduled and expected to take place on July 9, 2016, at UFC 200. However, on July 6, 2016, Jones was removed from the bout by USADA on June 16 after a potential doping violation. On November 7, 2016, it was announced that Jones had been suspended for one year by USADA, retroactive to July 7. Two days later, it was announced that Jones had been stripped of his interim title, making him the first fighter in UFC history to be stripped of a title twice. On December 15, Jones was also suspended by the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) for one year.
While on the sidelines, Jones fought retired UFC fighter Dan Henderson in a grappling match for the Submission Underground 2 tournament on December 14. For the first minutes of the match, both fighters jockeyed for position against the cage. Jones submitted Henderson via an arm-triangle choke at 6:39 minutes. Following the fight, Jones expressed his interest in grappling with Chael Sonnen.
Third suspension and return
The rematch with Daniel Cormier took place on July 29, 2017, at UFC 214 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. Jones won the fight and re-captured the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship via knockout in the third round after a head kick and a barrage of strikes on the ground. After the fight, Jones was awarded a Performance of the Night bonus. After the fight, Jones praised Cormier as a “model champion”, while recognising his own personal failings. He then challenged Brock Lesnar to a fight.
On August 22, it was announced that Jones had been flagged for a potential doping violation by USADA, stemming from his sample that was collected after weigh-ins July 28. He tested positive for Turinabol, an anabolic steroid. Jones was placed on a provisional suspension as a result. On September 13, USADA confirmed that both the “A” and “B” sample of Jones’ tested positive for Turinabol. As a result, the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) officially overturned the result of the fight to a no contest. Subsequently, UFC President Dana White made the decision to strip him of the Light Heavyweight championship, and return it to Daniel Cormier.
In September 2018 it was announced by USADA that Jones would serve a suspension of 15 months. From a potential suspension of 48 months USADA applied a reduction of 30 months for Jones’s co-operation in identifying other anti-doping offences, and a further 3 months was applied by arbitrators McLaren in relation to Jones’s degree of fault.
Second UFC Light Heavyweight Championship reign
On October 10, 2018, it was announced that Jones would return at UFC 232 on December 29, 2018, in a rematch with Alexander Gustafsson for the vacant UFC Light Heavyweight Championship. Jones defeated Gustafsson by technical knockout in the third round to win the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship.
In the first defense of his second championship reign, Jones faced Anthony Smith on March 2, 2019, in the main event at UFC 235. Jones dominated the fight, but was deducted two points in the fourth round after landing an illegal knee to Smith’s head. He won the fight via unanimous decision with all three judges submitting 48–44 scorecards for Jones.
Jones faced Dominick Reyes on February 8, 2020 in the main event of UFC 247. Jones won the fight via unanimous decision. 14 of 21 media outlets scored the contest for Reyes, while only 7 scored it for Jones. With this win, Jones set the new record for most wins in UFC title fight history with 14 wins.