Anthony Smith walked in place of Jon Jones.
Long before he was a top fighter at the UFC, the 31-year-old light heavyweight fought with many personal demons who led him down a path of self-destruction.
Drinking and partying ultimately led to Smith’s impaired driving accident, which ended up in the hospital with no memory of what had happened the night before. This ended up serving as the background for Smith, who started to turn things around in the aftermath of this horrible moment.
Most recently, Jones was arrested for worsening his DWI skills, careless use of a firearm, carrying an open container in his vehicle and driving without proof of insurance. This was his second influence-driving arrest and the third time Jones was arrested in similar circumstances after fleeing a hit and run accident in 2015.
In the aftermath of Jones’ latest break-in with law enforcement, many called on the UFC to intervene and take away the light heavyweight title. Others have suggested that perhaps a stay in prison would serve as a wake-up call that Jones needed to finally correct his constant bad behavior.
Smith promises that none of this is the answer.
“No matter what penalties you impose, how long your jail sentence is, no matter who leaves you, no matter what fines you get, no matter how many times you lose your title, no matter how many sponsors who leave you and no matter what people say about you, “said Smith in an interview with MMA Fighting. “I promise you, Jon Jones won’t change until he wants to change.
“Until Jon Jones is ready to stop doing what he is doing and stop feeling that unpleasant feeling you are going to have when everything comes out.” He is not upset that he was caught. He is upset because everyone knows it now. Until he does what he does, he will not change. I know this because I was Jon Jones. “
As easy as it may be to criticize Jones for all of his mistakes, Smith is not as quick to wave the finger of the current 205 pound UFC champion because he has been there before.
This is why he knows with absolute certainty that the UFC punishing Jones for his latest transgressions will not really solve the problem in the long term.
“I did the things Jon Jones did,” said Smith. “I was involved in a drinking and driving accident. I got several DUIs. I’ve been to jail before. None of this changed until I was ready to change. That was it. I do not hide it. Jon tries to hide from everything.
“Until you can be a man with your head held high and say you know what I fucked up and I’m done with, nothing is going to change. You see the fans saying “The UFC needs to do this, the UFC needs to do that.” “Never mind. No matter what they do. Until it’s ready to change and it’s a cliché, it’s every self-help book you’ve read all your life, but it’s the truth. I didn’t change until I was ready to change. ”
Jones did not address his latest arrest outside of a statement released by his officials.
In the prepared statement, Jones said he was “disappointed” with himself and the people he had abandoned while adding that he took “full responsibility” for his actions.
Ultimately, Smith expects Jones to do a full mea culpa before resuming his fighting career, which is the same pattern he has followed in the past.
“We all know how this story will unfold,” said Smith. “He’s going to do his little rehab thing. He will go out and do a 45 minute interview. He will apologize. He will talk about how he will change. He will say that he appreciates everyone. And then we’re not going to hear from him for a little while.
“Then he will fight, he will win and he will thank everyone for staying with him all the time, then a year later we will start again. “
Because this has been a pattern of repeated behavior with Jones throughout his career, Smith cannot say that he expects dramatic changes based on what he has seen so far.
Still, Smith can’t help but notice that real red flags were raised with Jones based on this latest incident where he was found alone in a car with a handgun, a bottle of alcohol in the middle of a city lockout due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“I don’t understand what’s going on with him,” said Smith. “There are deeper problems there. Jon must honestly find out what makes him happy. Once he has discovered this, we will determine what he should lose before changing. What is your ass
“I know what mine was and I know what it took to change, but he doesn’t lose his title. It’s not for financial reasons, he’s already lost a ton of money. It is not his public perception because he has already ransacked it several times. I do not know. There are a lot of things going on and there are a lot of demons he has to deal with. At this point, nothing that Jon Jones does would ever surprise me. It’s crazy. “
Considering the dull reaction Jones received after the arrest, Smith says he has already gone too far in the eyes of his most loyal supporters. The fact that no one seemed so surprised by this latest incident tells Smith all he needs to know about how Jones is perceived.
“I don’t think anyone believed him when he said he had changed anyway,” said Smith. “So many people are not surprised. I think it’s negative, nobody was surprised. When you get to a point where you get arrested for another DWI and shoot with a gun when that happens and no one is shocked and it’s not even a hot topic anymore, I think that you have irreparable damage.
“I think it’s the nail in the coffin for Jon. The fact that no one was surprised and it wasn’t so bad, I think that’s the biggest problem. ”
At this point, Smith knows that only Jones is able to withdraw from the ledge to prevent this from happening again.
He expects Jones to say all the right things over the next few months as he tries to walk straight and narrow after this latest arrest. The real evidence that Jones really cleaned up his act will be judged by actions, not words.
“It doesn’t matter what Jon Jones says. It matters what Jon Jones does, “said Smith. “What he says and his actions are two completely different things. I don’t care what he says. I care what he does and I don’t hang on to Jon Jones here.
“I hope Jon understands it only because I’ve been there before and I know what the other side of this fence looks like and he’s stuck on the wrong side now. “