Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) President, Dana White, issued a statement earlier this week that he was "proud" of Light Heavyweight champion Jon Jones, who was using cocaine in the weeks leading up to his main event match against Daniel Cormier at UFC 182, which went down this past weekend (Sat., Jan. 3, 2015) in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Obviously, it was not because "Bones" was flirting with potential career suicide, but rather his decision to enter a rehabilitation center to treat his substance abuse issue.
White was a guest on FOX Sports 1's "America's Pregame Show" this evening to talk more about the sad situation, which he made even sadder when he revealed that he knew Jones had failed his drug test weeks prior to stepping inside his Octagon.
"What happened was, so they do these tests leading up to a fight, these random drug tests, and he tested positive. No, [there was no talk of postponing the fight] because number one, he was healthy. Number two, the reason you would stop a fight and the hammer would drop on a guy would be if he tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.... [Daniel Cormier] was not [informed of the failed test] because he didn't need to be. If he tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, everything would have got shut down.... The other thing people have to understand about this situation is Jon Jones was contracted to fight. We have a contract with him. Everybody thinks that we can just say, ‘Hey, the fight's off. The fight's not happening.' Damn right he had the right to fight."
Doing bumps and blowing lines -- or doing whatever Jones was doing to his body weeks out from a rigorous and violent 25-minute fight -- seems far from healthy. Had Jones collapsed in the cage or had some other complication, it would seem that the UFC brand, today, would be in terrible sorts.
Len Bias taught that tragic lesson with his life 25 years ago.
What's worse, White appeared to be concerned and somber, deflecting important questions -- that still need answers -- and foisting a tone of genuine compassion.
"I was shocked, obviously, and this is one of those situations where it's so different than if a guy gets busted for performance-enhancing drugs. You worry about the person first, you know? You forget about the fighting and the work side of it. You worry about the person, Jon Jones as a person. He got checked into rehab, they're going to evaluate him and then we'll go from there."
Worrying about a person first would mean that White and Co. immediately addressed the situation when they learned about it in early Dec. 2014. Flew down to Albuquerque, N.M., to pull him aside and convince him that not fighting is in his best interests. Did a well check, look their most talented fighter -- perhaps ever -- in the eyes and made him understand that fighting on Jan 3, 2015, WASN'T FUCKING HAPPENING.
White has done it before, especially with his good friends, and he could have easily persuaded Jones to get better and honor his contract to fight Cormier when he was of sound mind and body.
Instead, UFC played the quiet game, built up the "bad blood" and kicked its promotional machine into overdrive, pushing Jones and Cormier to their limits inside and outside the cage. Meanwhile, a plan was seemingly hatched behind the scenes to get Jones into rehab, issue supportive statements and play the "human" card -- hiding behind contracts, commissions and botched drug test results -- to pretend like this okay and weather the public relations storm until Conor McGregor can steal away our attention next week.
"Everything happens for a reason. It's a great thing this happened. It's a great thing this guy made a mistake. Who would have known? We would never know. We'll get him the help that he needs."
Unfortunately, White and Co. did know and didn't do anything about it until it was good for business (750,000 pay-per-view buys!). That's not to say that White and Co. don't genuinely care for Jones' health, either, or any other fighter for that matter. But, to say one thing, and clearly do the opposite -- and then go on television and try to artificially humanize the situation -- is alarming.
I truly hope Jones reaches his true potential one day. He's a once-in-a-lifetime talent. I truly hope UFC reaches its potential one day, too. It's a great brand that has helped build an amazing sport.
But, enough is enough.
Jones will spend the next few weeks taking personal inventory, perhaps even running through the "12 Steps of Recovery," one of which is to admit when you are wrong ... immediately. UFC got this all wrong. White got this all wrong. And both need to admit it and apologize to Jon Jones, and the fans, because everyone deserves better.