The MMA headlines have been dominated all week by Jon Jones. That’s to be expected after an impressive win for a pound-for-pound entrant.
But unfortunately, folks aren’t abuzz over Jones’ unanimous decision victory over the previously undefeated Daniel Cormier.
Instead, they’re asking: does Jon Jones actually have a drug problem?
We don’t know. There are a lot of unanswered questions at this point. We know he checked in to a rehab clinic, and we know he tested positive for cocaine a month ago.
We wish him well.
It’s the first time a UFC champion has dealt with an out-of-competition drug test which revealed a recreational drug use — in fact, the Nevada Athletic Commission is now inferring that they shouldn’t have been testing for cocaine at all.
It’s a little weird right now, and it’s still something new.
But tales about MMA fighters and a hard-partying lifestyle aren’t anything new.
Back in a simpler time about eight years ago, rumors swirled around one of Jones’ predecessors as UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, Chuck “Iceman” Liddell.
An infamous TV appearance added a little fuel to the fire, so to speak:
The clip, for Dallas’ Good Morning Texas, saw a “dazed and confused” Liddell struggling to stay awake as an interviewer asks him about the film 300, for which Liddell was doing promo work. His answers are mostly nonsensical or inaudible, and at one point he appears to fall asleep.
Liddell recalled the incident in his 2008 autobiography:
I had pneumonia and a hacking cough… I was struggling. But when you’re on the road and get a chance to see buddies you haven’t seen in a while, you want to take advantage.
The night before the Good Morning Texas interview, I went to the W Hotel and had a few drinks with a friend. I got home around 2:00 AM and had this appearance planned for eight in the morning… I woke up coughing and decided to down some NyQuil, too.
After that I don’t remember a thing.
Liddell has no memory of the appearance — including his calling out Tommy Morrison and (possibly?) Mike Tyson. But he admits, he laughs along with everyone else who sees it.
I remember laughing at it, too. But what makes the biggest impression as I see it again is the look of genuine concern on the part of the interviewer, who ends the segment encouraging Liddell, “hang in there.”
In Liddell’s telling of the incident, he came back home to California at Dana White’s request, cancelled the rest of his promotional appearances, and spent the next eight days getting bed rest. Interestingly, he describes the Nevada Athletic Commission coming in to test him for drugs in response to the debacle.
He passed, and fought again a few months later. But his career had already begun a decline.
Now, Liddell’s story in MMA has ended, while Jones’ story is still being told — with most observers feeling like he’s still improving.
Here’s hoping that he does.
Maybe he doesn’t need to hear it — but here’s hoping he hangs in there.