A look back at the astonishing career of UFC champion Jon Jones

Jon Jones
Image via @ufc on Instagram

UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones turned 33 years old on Sunday, so it’s the perfect time to go back and take a look at his astonishing MMA career.

Jones made his MMA debut in April 2008. From April until July of that year, Jones fought six times and finished six opponents, including former Bellator fighter Carlos Eduardo. The UFC matchmakers took quick notice of what Jones was doing on the regional circuit and signed Jones to a deal to make his UFC debut just four months after making his MMA debut.

In August 2008, Jones made his Octagon debut when he took on veteran Andre Gusmao, defeating him via unanimous decision at UFC 87: St-Pierre vs. Fitch. The UFC loved what they saw out of Jones in that fight and then he took on Stephan Bonnar at UFC 94 in January 2009, defeating him via decision as well. That set Jones up for a fight against Jake O’Brien at UFC 100 in July 2009, and Jones finished him with a guillotine to improve to 9-0.

In December 2009, Jon Jones took on Matt Hamill and suffered the first loss of his career when referee Steve Mazzagatti ruled that he finished Hamill with illegal 10-6 downward elbows. It’s still to this day one of the most controversial reffing decisions in MMA history, and it’s to this day the reason that Jones is not undefeated as he still hasn’t lost since then.

Although on paper it went down as a loss, the UFC looked at the Hamill fight as a win for Jones and then booked him against Brandon Vera in March 2010. Jones won the fight via TKO and then he finished Vladimir Matyushenko via TKO in August 2010. That set Jones up for a huge fight against Ryan Bader at UFC 126 in February 2011, and he finished him via submission to jump to the top of the contenders’ list at 205lbs.

When Jones’ teammate at Jackson-Wink, Rashad Evans, was unable to fight Mauricio “Shogun” Rua for the UFC light heavyweight title, Jones stepped in on short notice and defeated Rua at UFC 128 in March 2011 to become the youngest champion in UFC history at age 23. It would set up Jones to have one of the greatest MMA careers of all time.

Following the win over Rua, Jones went on to defeat Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Lyoto Machida, Rashad Evans, Vitor Belfort, Chael Sonnen, Alexander Gustafsson and Glover Teixeira, setting up a huge fight with Daniel Cormier at UFC 182 in January 2015. Jones won that fight via decision but was later stripped of his belt when he got into legal issues after a hit-and-run incident that left a pregnant woman with a broken arm.

In April 2016, Jones returned to the Octagon where he defeated Ovince Saint Preux to win the interim UFC light heavyweight title, but he was stripped of his belt once again before a scheduled UFC 200 fight rematch with Cormier after a failed drug test. In July 2017, Jones and Cormier finally met for a second time, with Jones knocking DC out with a head kick. But once again he failed a drug test and had his title stripped and the fight was a NC.

In December 2018, Jones returned to the Octagon and defeated his rival Gustafsson in a rematch to win the vacant UFC light heavyweight title. He then went on to defend his belt three more times against Anthony Smith, Thiago Santos, and Dominick Reyes at UFC 247 in February 2020, which at this point is the last time we’ve seen Jones in the Octagon. Jones currently holds an impeccable record of 26-1, 1 NC in his MMA career.

After reading this article, it’s clear that Jones has had one of the most incredible careers in UFC history, but at age 33 he may finally be retired. After getting into a contractual disagreement with the UFC over a potential Francis Ngannou superfight, Jones is now trying to raise the issue of fighter pay for future young fighters. At this point, we don’t know if Jones is officially done yet. But if he is, then he has had an amazing career.

Where do you rank Jon Jones among the greatest MMA fighters of all time?