Former Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight champ Jon Jones is not the first great athlete to have off-field transgressions surface at the height of his physical dominance, and he certainly won’t be the last.
But there is at least one superstar’s fall from grace to which Jones doesn’t see a parallel.
“You can’t really compare me to Tiger Woods because I’ve been messing up a lot longer,” Jones said with a smile Thursday during media day to promote his UFC 197 main-event bout against Ovince Saint Preux for the interim light heavyweight title Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden.
Jones, 28, was asked if he could see any similarities between his situation and that of the famed golfer. Woods famously had a series of extramarital affairs revealed after an incident outside his home involving his then-wife in late 2009.
While significant injuries also have played a factor, Woods has not won a major tournament since the revelations.
Jones was stripped of his UFC belt in 2015 after he was charged in a hit-and-run case. The incident occurred months after a positive cocaine test and was followed by two more high-profile traffic stops. He will fight for the first time in 15 months Saturday.
He admits there were times he could “party with the best of them.”
Now that he says he has embraced sobriety for the past seven months, Jones is trying to turn a new leaf. In the past, he would try to portray the image he thought he was expected to during interviews instead of just being himself.
“I guess what’s changed now for me is everything is out there for the public to see for themselves,” he said. “There’s really no hiding anything anymore. It’s very freeing to be so open and honest. I believe somewhere, someone will draw strength from my struggles, and they’ll see the way I’ve dealt with them and come back from them and they’ll draw some kind of strength and inspiration from it. That gives me added strength.”
Jones has no concern of a downturn in performance now that so much of his personal turmoil has gone public, similar to the one Woods experienced.
Part of the reason is that while the Woods situation came seemingly from out of nowhere, Jones has not been squeaky clean throughout his career.
“I had a DWI in 2012 and continued to win championships,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of setbacks in life and still been able to perform at work. I don’t really look at this as a Tiger Woods moment of having some drama and sinking from that point forward.”
All Jones can do is try his best in and out of the cage going forward.
“I never said I’m not going to get in any more trouble,” he said. “I’m just going to do my best not to.”
He has a chance to win back at least the interim title Saturday. Should he emerge victorious, a matchup with Daniel Cormier for the belt is likely on the horizon, perhaps at UFC 200 on July 9 at T-Mobile Arena.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at email@example.com or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj