Since Jon Jones claimed the UFC Light Heavyweight title in 2011, he has been under scrutiny. Of course with the responsibility of fame comes attention of different kinds. For Jon Jones, he seems to be only receiving one kind of attention: negative. Most of the mixed martial arts world love to hate Jon and it doesn’t seem to be getting better for the undisputed champion.
Recently in one of Joe Rogan’s infamous podcasts he took the opportunity to address the attitudes people have towards Jones. The perspective he took is nothing short of something Joe Rogan would take, as his opinions can sometimes be abrasive and ground-breaking. He presented the idea that perhaps Jones would be more popular if he were not black, but white.
“You know why? Because I think they look at him as this cocky black guy and I think a lot of people have an issue with that. I think that if he was a white guy and he was doing the same thing, a la a Chael Sonnen, I think he would be way more popular. Chael was never the successful athlete that Jon is, but I think Chael was way more successful as a promoter than Jon is. Jon has not been nearly as cocky or outwardly braggadocios as Chael was.” [via bloody Elbow]
On one hand the fragile topic has some clear truth to it. People in general can pass judgement easily, especially on those who stand within in the limelight. In a world where we are free to think, speak and express how we feel, opinions that are large and small will float in the air. In sports, it is no different; this is practically why sports journalism exists. It is also why sports are such a great escape for the fan—they can express their opinions in a safe way, whether hurtful or intelligent without great consequence.
In the case of Jones’, perhaps Joe has a point. Without making this piece into a cultural observation, there is a huge possibility in that the colour of his skin deters fans from liking of him. The conversation is a sensitive one, but it is fair to say that racism still exists. Thus, why wouldn’t it be the perfect opportunity to propel hate towards an athlete knowing as a fan, there really isn’t grave consequence? Joe goes onto say:
“I just always found it odd when everybody would get upset at him and say that they didn’t like that ‘he’s cocky.’ He’s 25 and he’s the UFC’s light heavyweight champion. He’s the youngest ever UFC champion. He destroyed Shogun [Rua] to win the title and I mean destroyed.”
On the other hand, Joe Rogan speaks of Jon with a greater knowledge of martial arts. Joe Rogan has trained in Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for more than a decade which allows him to see Jones’ efforts from an athletic stand point, not an image stand point. The fans, however, are exposed to Jones through interviews, UFC marketing and other forms of entertainment that shows us the lives of fighters. In most of these setting Jones’ (and this is my opinion) comes off as though he has crafted what he will say with careful calculation in order to exude a humble demeanour. This of course is my personal opinion, maybe he truly is humble through and through. Nonetheless, this is what fans see.
To further the fans negative perspective of the champion, Jones’ over the top reaction after his altercation with Daniel Cormier offered his image no favours. Yelling and screaming in victory on the press stage after being torn off of Cormier to a calm and apologetic interview an hour later is, for lack of a better word, odd. This is exactly what Daniel Cormier meant by Jon Jones being a “fake ass” during their interview with ESPN.
Overall, though, I do believe that true fans of the sport understand and see the allure of Jon Jones’ talent. It is very hard to argue against his work ethic and his ability to practice his talents fight after fight. His situation is along the same lines of Flyod Mayweather—undefeated and absolutely boisterous. Yet, once you remove the blanket of excessive behaviour and over the top lifestyle, his talents are the things that have created that. It is difficult to understand the hate towards an athlete that practically all around is a powerful influence; I suppose their attitude and the image which the public witnesses surely has a lasting impression on the fans.
Another thing to remember is Joe Rogan is considered a “colour” commentator for a reason. He has no filter, even sometimes with profanity. But Rogan is a very deep and well thought guy–he has big opinions and isn’t afraid to express them. Perhaps he did hit some new ground by being the only person to publicly express this idea. Either way, the one reason that most fans would say is why they don’t like Jones is his overwhelming ability to try and exude ‘humility’.
“I’m probably going to get an equal amount from ‘the Aryan race,’ mad at me for defending Jon Jones, ‘The cocky negro.’ I really think there’s something to that. I think people want a guy who is so physically gifted and young and brash and black and rich, they want him to have more humility or fake humility, as it were.”
Whether his “humility” is fake or not, Jones must understand what comes at the peak of his fame. He clearly wants the fans to like him, he openly said during his post fight scrum with Rogan at UFC 165 that he was thrown off by the booing. Perhaps he should take some pointers from bantamweight champ Ronda Rousey, as she accepts it with open arms. The funny part about all of this is one fight she is the enemy, the next she is graced with a bass line of cheering.
Therefore, maybe it’s best for Jones not to pay attention at all.