By: Dom Niranont
Jon Jones will probably go down as one of the greatest fighters in MMA history. The 28 year old has an amazing record of 21-1, with his only loss coming from a disqualification by using illegal elbows. He has also defended the UFC Light Heavyweight title eight times, making him the longest reigning champion in the Light Heavyweight division. Early in his career, he was portrayed as a “good guy” because in his interviews he seemed as though he was a humble, respectable man. However, his portrayal of being the “good guy” started to diminish, especially after he was tested positive for having substances of cocaine in his system after his last fight. Is he really the “good guy” that he claimed to be?
I will apply the framing theory to analyze how Jones was framed in the media, and how his off camera actions changed his framing throughout his career. According to Goffman, framing theory consist of the human mind creating frames that define perceptions and definitions of reality. In other words, framing is the act of shaping how an audience views a particular issue or person in media. I will examine articles about Jones, as well as his interviews over the course of his career to determine how he was framed during that time.
The “good guy” persona of Jones peaked hours before his first title fight. To prepare for his upcoming bout, Jones and his coaches went to a park in Newark, New Jersey to mediate and prepare Jones’ mindset for the biggest fight of his career up to this point. While they were in the park, they heard a scream and saw a man had broken into a car with a GPS in his hand and started running. Immediately, his coaches starting chasing after the robber, and Jones soon followed suit and was able to catch the robber. Him and his coaches were able to pin down the robber until police came. Jones said that he felt like a “superhero” after the incident. When he returned back to the woman who was robbed, she thanked him and told him that God will be with him in his fight.
Later that night, he would win the UFC belt from Shogun Rua with a devastating third round TKO. Becoming the new Light Heavyweight Champion after being a “superhero” positioned him in a more positive light in the eyes of MMA fans. In addition, he would
publicly announce his Christian faith after fights. In an interview with MMA reporter Ariel Helwani, he thanked God when he first received the title shot. Additionally, after his win against Glover Teixeira, he said, “I would like to thank Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. Without him, I would be nothing.”
Jon Jones was framed in a way that he was a hero, a Christian, and an overall “good guy”
making him a respectable champion. This “good guy” act, however, was soon brought into the light.
On May 19, 2012 Jones was charged with a DUI after crashing his Bentley into a utility pole. Soon after, he refused to fight an opponent on short notice which led to a cancellation of the entire UFC PPV. In response to Jones’ refusal to fight, Dana White said on a conference call, “Lorenzo Fertitta and I are disgusted with Jon Jones…I don’t know why a guy who is a world champion and considered by many the pound for pound best wouldn’t fight anybody.” In a span of two years, he went from a respectable champion to a “villain” in the eyes of the fans. Even other fighters were outraged towards Jones because the fighters were unable to receive the payday they were looking forward to. Former UFC fighter Charlie Brenneman tweeted “@jonnybones u can send my check to PO box 198. EH NJ. Rent is due the first, so preferably by then. Thanks. @ufc.”
Jones was also called out on acting “fake.” This accusation first aroused when Jones and his opponent Rashad Evans were being interviewed by CSS Sports. Evans called Jones fake, and questioned how Jones presented himself. Then, leading up to his title defense at UFC 182, his opponent Daniel Cormier claimed that Jones is “a fake individual” on an ESPN interview between the two. These claims seemed as though it had no backing because Jones seemed professional, and chose his words carefully. The way Jones presented himself made Cormier seem as though he was an instigator, just adding more animosity between them. Thus, his claim was a “he said” claim with no physical proof. If only there was a leaked video of some sort to give backing to Cormier’s claim.
Unfortunately for Jones, there was a leaked video. While preparing for their interview on ESPN, Jones started the conversation by saying, “You there p****?” This is a completely different Jon Jones that was presented to the media. Towards the end of the video, Jones even threaten to kill Cormier. After this video leaked, people saw the real Jon Jones, which was quite different than the “good guy” persona Jones was giving off. When asked about being fake, Jones said, “We all have hats to wear…when the camera is on, I have a job to do. I represent a brand.” Jones was purposefully framing himself in a way he wanted to be framed.
Nevertheless, the framing of Jones declined even more after the video leak. Jones was fined $25,000 after testing positive for cocaine. In his interview about the cocaine use, he owned up to his drug use, and was adamant that he did not have a drug problem. He says, “I’m not here to make excuses for what happened. I did it…it was something I dipped and dabbed into, but it was never really an issue.” He later admitted himself into rehab , and it seemed as though Jones was fixing his problem. However, Yahoo Sports came out with an article about Jones’ rehab, calling it a charade. Jones only stayed one night at a rehab center which, according to Yahoo Journalist Kevin Lole, made it seem as though his self admission was a publicity stunt. Soon after, he was charged with a hit-and run where he hit the car of a pregnant woman, and was seen fleeing with a pocketful of cash. There was also a marijuana pipe with marijuana left inside the car. After this incident, there was no more “good guy” Jon Jones.
In regards to fighting, Jones is believed to be a dirty fighter. In an interview on Inside MMA, Bas Rutten said that Jones is a dirty fighter because of the amount of eye pokes he does in his fights. However, Jones claims he is not intentionally poking opponents in the eyes, and one of his opponents, Glover Teixeira, downplayed Jones’ eye pokes by saying, “It wasn’t because of eye-pokes that I lost that fight. Jones won that fight.”
The Real Jon Jones
I am a fan of Jon Jones. I love watching him fight and outclassing his opponents. In my opinion, he is the greatest fighter of all time. However, Jones needs to be his true self, and to let go of the different masks that he wears in the public eye. He is putting on a different mask whenever he is at a public event so that the media can frame him in a positive light. I understand why he would put on a different mask because of professionalism, but there is a fine line between being professional, and being hypocritical.
If Jones is a cocky person, then he should act like a cocky person. I personally would not dislike Jones if he was overly cocky. However, I would dislike him if he was cocky but continued to claim he was humble. Being hypocritical makes one less credible and “fake.” In the CSS Sport interview with Rashad Evans, Jones said, “I haven’t seen the world. I don’t have the riches. And I don’t have this, or I don’t have that.” But Evans cut him off by asking, “You got a Bentley don’t you?” To which Jones acknowledged that he indeed owns a Bentley.
In Jones’ past interviews, he was very professional, and chose his words carefully. Even when he disliked his opponent, he never used derogatory language, such as in his Ultimate Insider interview with Rashad Evans. He was cocky toward Evans by saying “you’re not going to keep up with me Rashad.” But he never used derogatory language towards Evans. However, his most recent press conference was more “real” Jon Jones. He still acted professional, however, he made more jabs towards Cormier, and openly called him a “p****.” In an interview with Cormier, Jones was very cocky and confident that he would beat Cormier, and Jones had an intensity in his voice. In the duration of the interview, Jones told Cormier to “shut up”, and when Cormier said that he was willing to die to beat him, Jones responded with “ok, be prepared to do that.” Completely different Jones from his past interviews.
This is the Jones I want to see. If he genuinely dislikes somebody, he should freely express his dislike for the person instead of attempting to be “professional” about it. I want his raw feelings. Not only does it make the fights more interesting, but I respect people who are honest with themselves, especially in terms of how they feel about something or someone.
Jones wanted to be framed as the “good guy,” the humble Christian champion. But he was soon exposed of being “fake” and his “good guy” frame went in the opposite direction. I think now that Jones is being more “real,” the MMA fans are more accepting of Jones because he is not putting on a facade in front of the media. This is the Jon Jones people want to see.