Jon Jones and the Era of the Arrogant UFC Champion

By Willis Patenaude
Jon Jones UFC
Photo Courtesy of the Official Jon Jones Facebook Page

The reign of the arrogant champ has officially dawned in the UFC, and it’s led by Jon Jones, who is touted and promoted as the greatest fighter in the history of MMA, which is knee-jerk reactionism, lacking all perspective in our Twitter nation obsessed with instant gratification.

However, the problems of pomposity extend beyond Jones, and have infiltrated the championship ranks in general. There is smugly smirking HW champion Cain Velasquez, who has fought the same two guys over the last three years. Of course, in no conceivable universe other than the UFC was Antonio Silva ever worthy of receiving two title shots.

After Anderson Silva broke his own leg, MW champion Chris Weidman danced and pranced like he’d just accomplished something. Since when is your opponent suffering a gruesome injury cause to celebrate? One lucky haymaker and Weidman is convinced he is world class, despite the fact that his record is full of never-weres.

Then again, it’s hard to forget Ronda Rousey, the women’s champion, a cage fighting Cersei Lannister who won’t be overshadowed in the race to the arrogant throne. She brazenly rips off The Four Horsemen of Ric Flair, never shuts up, can’t take a joke, and refuses to shake hands. Her permanent “Kirsten Stewart scowl” and inability to be classy and graceful in victory is unmatched in the history of MMA. She makes Rick “The Model” Martel look humble.

The worst of them all though is Jones, king of the humblebrag, who might actually believe he is Jesus walking on Earth, driving his own hype train with no brakes. The faux humility, an embarrassing attempt to hide the lurking conceit and colossal ego, both of which could be a cover for a fragile psyche or he really is that cocky, drowning in his own self-assured righteousness.

In Jones’ most recent victory, a unanimous decision over Glover Teixeira at UFC 172, Joe Rogan repeated that Jones is “incredibly creative” inside the octagon, and this is true. Jones is creative at finding new ways to eye-poke, show off and show up his opponents. It is a ceaseless tutorial on crass conduct groundlessly defended by Rogan and others because it’s just, “Jones being Jones.”

Since when is that an excuse to act unseemly portentous and borderline disgraceful? Our society has decided to accept this excuse for all manner of absurd and detestable behaviors. So, acting contemptibly obnoxious and being intolerably insufferable is acceptable because you’re just being you? Well, that’s just bunkum.

It is not a justification or an agreeable explanation because sometimes, the behavior that makes you who you are is wrong. Unless you believe the brainless “someone hacked my account” defense, were the homophobic rants just “Jones being Jones?”

There was a time when the UFC had honorable, selfless, role-model champions who weren’t beholden to the Lady Gaga theory that any publicity is good publicity. Rousey acts like a WWE diva, fully embracing the role of villain, and Jones never misses an opportunity to take verbal cheap shots at fellow competitors.

Only current flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson and bantamweight champion Renan Barao share the humble qualities of past champions, and you believe it because they are. They don’t need to mask their haughtiness, because it doesn’t exist. No one needs to make the “Renan being Renan” excuse. There is no unjustifiable behavior you need to justify because of some depraved notion that all behavior is acceptable.

I can almost hear the mainstream fans retorting with their supercilious motto “haters gonna hate,” that utterly fails at rational reasoning or logical argumentative defenses of their octagon heroes.

Well, I’m not a “hater,” and we can have our hipster battle later about who has been down with MMA longer. For now, I just believe a certain level of respect, particularly in victory, is not a request filled with a “hater’s” mentality. Asking Jones and others to win with class and refrain from showboating and engaging in contemptuous behavior directed at their opponent is not “hating,” it’s a levelheaded, cultured request.

The UFC went from admirable, likeable and easy to root for champions, to arrogant, loathsome ones who drive PPV buys, not because people want to watch them win, but because people want to watch them lose. That’s nothing to promote or be proud of.

Willis Patenaude is a New England Patriots writer for Follow him on Twitter, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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