Last April, UFC light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones ran a red light in Albuquerque, N.M. and crashed his vehicle into a pregnant woman’s. Jones fled the scene on foot, returned to the vehicle to grab a wad of cash, then ran off again. Jones was quickly arrested, stripped of his title, and suspended from the UFC indefinitely.
He had his day in court this morning, and, in front of a judge, pleaded guilty to one felony charge of leaving the scene of a crime involving an injury. The judge gave Jones 18 months of probation, and required him to make 72 speaking appearances. But he avoided jail time, which means he is free to work, which means it’s once again time for the greatest fighter of all time to fight.
The 28-year old has had a hell of a year. On Jan. 2, he crushed his closest rival, Daniel Cormier, for his eighth successive title defense in four years. Then news broke that a month before the Cormier fight, Jones failed a random drug test—that he should never have been given in the first place—and popped for cocaine. Three days after securing his belt, he checked himself into a rehab facility.
He stayed for a single day before checking himself out. Three months after that was rock bottom: the accident and suspension. But this morning’s sentence assures that Jones will be back in the UFC before long.
Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor have emerged this year as the two biggest stars the UFC, but the light-heavyweight landscape hasn’t much changed since Jones’s departure. Cormier is the division’s “champion” after beating Anthony Johnson in May, and he’s defending his belt this Saturday against ginormous Swede Alexander Gustafsson. Cormier, Gustafsson, and Johnson were the same three guys fighting for a shot with Jones at the top of the division when he left. Jones is one of the UFC’s biggest draws, so the UFC is already moving to reinstate him. They’ll likely plug him right in against the winner of Cormier and Gustafsson.
Before all of this happened, Jones’s plan was to finish clearing out the light heavyweights before moving up to heavyweight and taking on superfights. What’s exciting is that Jones might be able to start the next phase of his career in his home state of New York, at Madison Square Garden. Professional MMA has been banned in New York, but the UFC is reportedly so confident that they’ll be able to host an event that they set a date for April 23, 2016. The fight night could well still get scrapped or moved depending on upcoming court proceedings, but there’d be no better place for Jones to make his grand return.
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