A dynasty. By definition: to reign for a period of time. In team sports, a decade or decades have been the barometer, not always winning every year, but still in essence, so dominant in history that everything revolves around them. For the individual stars, it’s not so much about the years, as it is about the spectacular accomplishments in memorable bursts.
UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones successfully defended his title for the eighth straight time against yet another worthy opponent, Daniel Cormier last weekend and in doing so scaled the gaudy Mt. Dynasty. Only former UFC champ Anderson Silva has had more championship defenses in a row with ten. No two have been so overpowering during their runs of excellence. With Silva’s 16 win streak ending in 2013, it is now Jones, title holder since 2011, who now has the mantle–MMA King.
Combative sports tend to create these special one-man wrecking crews from time to time, title to title. There are two extraordinary boxers doing this at the moment. Floyd Mayweather Jr. has never lost since his pro debut in 1996 a perfect 47-0 and there’s Wladimir Klitschko who is 63-3 and in the midst of the second longest heavyweight reign trailing only the legendary Joe Louis who had an astonishing 25 title defenses over 11 years and 8 months. Rocky Marciano is the only heavyweight king to retire undefeated at 49-0 and he left the game while still in his prime. Muhammad Ali defended his title 10 times. These men were, and are their own gauge of competition. Everyone had to, or still has to go through them. Dynasties all.
Until Tuesday, there would be more comparisons of Jones and what this sterling streak has meant to him and his sport. But the dynasty talk dramatically segued into his legacy outside the cage this week… Everyone who has remotely followed it knows the gist; the word cocaine attached to the same sentence as UFC champion; then the champ going public that he had entered rehab; and the perfunctory press releases of support from the organization that employees him, and friends and foes wishing him well.
It isn’t the first time Jon Jones and a substance issue has been raised. There was the drunk driving arrest in 2012 after he wrapped his luxury car around a pole. He did his mea culpa and all wished him well, and it seemed sincere.
Sincerity, transparency, and humility have to factor in to whatever other program steps Jones must take from here on. At 6’4″ and with a reach of 84 1/2″ he is as close to the perfect fighting machine as MMA has ever seen. At 23 years old he became the youngest UFC champ, and in my 2011 book “Not Hit Yet” this was the description of Jones, back then it wasn’t so much prophetic as it was simple observation: It isn’t just that he wins, although Coach Lombardi was correct at the big time level it is the only thing. It is the combination of power, precision, and finesse not seen before in the sport. If you compared Jones to a fighter, it wouldn’t be in MMA more along the lines of a young boxer named Ali.
His talent and achievements are etched deeply in the MMA book. He is, if not the best ever, right there with the best. That is his dynasty. That can be looked up years from now.
Just as important though is a legacy. Did he just beat up a bunch of good fighters, or was there more to than man? I’ve always found Jones to be a complex, interesting, and intelligent young man. At times, a brooder and disengaged, while at other times witty and charming. Like the few that have done so much while so young, he can be a walking contradiction and unfairly judged.
Our society is a most forgiving one for those who face such problems as Jones is now, provided they see in kind a change in that hero who has stumbled if not fallen. Jones has the talent for this fight as well, how he responds will be remembered more than how many belts he holds up in the future.
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