The PR of Jon Jones
September 20, 2012
As we get ready for UFC 152, we take a look at the image of the star of the main event, Jon Jones. Despite being the top draw and one of the highest paid fighters in the UFC, he is also the most polarizing fighter in the UFC. Some of the issues fans have with him are of his own doing and some are perception.
Jones became a UFC darling as the next big thing. He was given a push by the UFC and stepped in for Rashad Evans to challenge Mauricio Rua for the title. After destroying Rua, the Jones era was at its zenith as he could do no wrong. In fact, we all recall he stopped a mugging the afternoon of the fight with Shogun. Jones was what the UFC needed. His celebrity earned him a spot on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
Then somewhere the backlash began. A feud with Rashad Evans and his training camp became public. It was thought that Jones usurped control of Greg Jackson as Evans left Jackson’s camp to train with the Blackzillians. While this does not make Jones the “heel,” the cracks in the Bones persona began to show.
Jones was even brought into question as Jones was sponsored by the UFC in his fight with Evans.
Jones was charged with a DUI this past May. It was later discovered that he was in the car with two young women and neither one was the mother of his children. Despite his DUI, he was not disciplined by the UFC and did the right thing in accepting responsibility. For the most part, this lapse of discretion did not hurt his image. In fact, he garnered the Nike sponsorship after this incident.
Then came UFC 151. When Henderson pulled out of the main event, Chael Sonnen was tabbed by Dana White as a suitable replacement. But, Jones declined the fight due to the short notice. This caused an uproar and Sonnen to call out the Light Heavyweight champion. It also started the PR nightmare for the UFC as White laid into Jones and Greg Jackson for their decision.
As for UFC 151, Jones accepted full responsibility for the cancellation but the apology was less than perfect. His “carry the cross” tweet indirectly analogized himself to Jesus Christ. While most reading the tweet understood that Jones was taking the blame, the way he made the apology was off-putting. The tweet showed Jones’ confidence…some would call it arrogance.
Even with the apology, news came out that Jones was going to compensate fighters for the delay in their paydays. But it came with a catch.
Via MMA Mania:
According to (ESPN’s) Franklin McNeil, a reliable source close to the situation said that Jon Jones was willing to pay the fighters from the card their purses. Unfortunately, that good will was hampered by a condition. You weren’t allowed to voice your opinion about the situation if it wasn’t a favorable one. These days, charitable moments have sub-clauses. Due to multiple fighters speaking out against Jones, he decided to change his mind and not pay out the fighters.
Here we see Jones again attempting to do the right thing but with the wrong execution. It would have been great for Jones to say that he’d pick up the tab for all the undercard fighters as those guys would be hurt the most with a delay in fighting. Maybe all the fighters. But, according to the report he put a condition to the money which would make paying the fighters seem more like a payoff for their silence.
Despite this, Jones has made a good accounting of himself during the UFC 152 Conference Call and in this interview with Ariel Helwani transcribed via MMA Mania. He has spoke his mind and, has for the most part, stood behind his decision to turn down the Sonnen fight.
Yet, Jones did say he felt like he was “a piece of meat” in the interview with Helwani.
Despite stating that he had no problems with Jones, Dana White appeared on The Jim Rome radio show and talked about Jones. In reference to Jones’ comment that he felt like the UFC treated him like “a piece of meat,” White responded by saying, “He didn’t feel like a piece of meat when we bought him that Bentley.” I don’t know if White meant the money Jones made gave him the means to buy him a Bentley or whether the UFC actually paid for Jones directly. Regardless, the comment was meant as a strong rebuttal to Jones’ comment about how the UFC was treating him.
It will be interesting to see what will come out of the meeting between White and Jones this week in Toronto.
The latest interview with Ariel Helwani shows the maturity of Jon Jones (as well as a James Harden beard):
Despite the criticism, Jon Jones is not going anywhere. From his “Champ is Here” entrance music to the cartwheel into the Octagon, Jones has a style and way about him that either people like or people hate. Jones has fallen into the same predicament many young athletes on the top of their game face. He wants to do the right thing but finds out that he can’t please everyone and himself. The cancellation of UFC 151 should not have been on Jones. Jones attempted to do the right thing but it came off as selfish. Even though he states that he doesn’t care about what other fighters think, it seems that he does.
White needs Jones as much as Jones needs the UFC otherwise White would have just cut Jones. Interesting that White never threatened to cut Jones like he threatened to cut Anderson Silva after UFC 112 in Abu Dhabi. Jones is proving to be an unbeatable force in the UFC and a PPV draw. He is also the best American fighter in the UFC.
Notwithstanding his continued statements that he does not care what people think, essentially he does. With Jones now sporting Nike as his main sponsor, Jones will be more visible to the mainstream media. Also, with his brothers in the NFL, broadcasters cannot but mention the brother, a “UFC Fighter”. We will see this over and over as I’m sure that’s in the media guides for both Jones brothers. And of course, if you watch a Fox broadcast, if Chandler Jones makes a tackle, it will be worked in that his brother is the UFC champ.
In one of his interviews, Jones compared his predicament with LeBron James. This is not too far off of a comparison. James definitely has made his share of poor PR choices (namely The Decision), shilled for sponsors (namely the Swoosh) and made arrogant proclamations to media (namely the amount of titles the Heat would win). Yet, James became more comfortable with who he was and with winning a title silenced some of his critics. With some of the media hits he’s been doing this week, we see Jones becoming more comfortable in his own skin despite the backlash of 151.