Me + Mr. (Jon) Jones


Editor’s Note: This column was originally published for the Look What You Made Me Do newsletter on SubStack.

No one needs to know how the sausage is made. And no one seems to ask “why” either. But one of the benefits of reading Look What You Made Me Do, is the only order it adheres to exists in the dank recesses of whatever the week has presented me.

Of course, while having participated in the New York Times exposé of my longtime former employer OZY Media and its erstwhile CEO Carlos Watson, and having written about it myself not just one, or two, but three times, it seems I would have had my hands full this last week. Watson, having been arrested, charged and arraigned for multiple counts of fraud after the guilty pleas of former COO Samir Rao and Chief of Staff Suzee Han, was grist for the schadenfreude mill. That and OZY finally shuttering its doors and Watson declaring that he has no money for a defense attorney.

Look What You Made Me Do

From the frontlines to the backline: All Eugene S. Robinson, All the time.

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However, since so much of that was fait accompli for me, something snuck ahead of it in my estimation. There’ll be time a’plenty to write about the depredations of Watson and crew, and have no fear, I will in the most stunning of ways, at such time as the dank recesses require. For this week though…it’s…sports.

Sorry, sorry, sorry, if sports is not your jam. This I understand. I understand because, in general, I hate sports too. If I know who your teams are AND I don’t like you, rest assured I follow your sports enough to know when your team loses since I’m petty like that and take joy, fleeting though it may be, from your sad days after your team has lost the night before.

Outside of that, though? Nothing. No baseball, hockey, football, soccer, basketball, golf, Formula One, tennis, poker, darts, billiards, bowling. Whatever your jam, I’m un-jammed there.

Until we start talking combat sports (also, still a dispensation is always made for bodybuilding, but am I OK with not calling that a sport? Yes I am).

I’m a sucker, a mark, a patsy, an OZY investor, for just about anything that involves fists and the inevitable conclusion that you, not anybody else but YOU, are lacking in the kind of virtues that guarantee the continuation of your bloodline. Sounds quasi-intellectual but hiding behind that is not what’s going to happen this week. This week, in the midst of a raft of truth telling, what will be said is this: only crazy people need to read much beyond this because only crazy people will understand it.

You know there’s a line from the 2013 Israeli film Big Bad Wolves that paints a picture for what’s meant here. A father and a father-in-law have a suspected criminal tied up in a basement. The father is trying to scare him with a gun. His father-in-law, a former Mossad agent, waves him off.

“Crazy people are not scared of guns,” he says. “Crazy people are scared of other crazy people.”

So it was that I battled back against the 105 degree heat in Marfa, Texas and left the poolside where creatives had been drawn by the awesome earning power of Scion to some sort of Chautauqua. In the cool of the hotel room, an 80 degree cool, I sat on the edge of my bed and called Malki Kawa, sports agent of note for the youngest Ultimate Fighting Champion (UFC) Jon Jones.

In every single combat sports interview I’ve ever done or every fighter I’ve ever met — Evander Holyfield, Tank Abbott, Chuck Liddell, Cain Velasquez, Fedor Emelianenko, Daniel Cormier, Dan Hardy, Ryan Bader and the list goes on and on — rarely have I not done so without some point nursing the idea: “yeah…I bet I could give him a run for his money.”

In some case I’ve been granted the luxury of this having been proved out. Cain and Chuck most famously. How’d it go? How do you think it went? After Cain Velasquez I stood on the phone outside of American Kick Boxing Academy blinking in the sun and whining to Renzo Gracie blackbelt and Cro-Mags founder Harley Flanagan.

“What the fuck did you THINK was going to happen?!?” He asked without really expecting an answer.

I wasn’t sure but while bullshitting with Kawa and waiting for Jones to get on the line I was quite sure of one thing: even were I to be given the chance to step in the cage with Jones, I would demur. For many reasons but the most aggressively held one is that Jones would murder me.

“It was like being in the cage with a bear,” is what Chael Sonnen said to me post-his light-heavyweight match up with Jones. Jones broke his toe in the fight, so much so that the bone was protruding through the skin, a development that had it been spotted by the refs would have cost him the fight. The fact that he knew this and knew he had to shut Sonnen down before this happened was proof positive enough that the bear had really just been playing prior to that.

In fact when I finally mention this, half way through my interview with Jones, that that would have been trouble, a flicker, and then a brief glimpse into the Jones that you read about it.

“Chael didn’t have me in any kind of trouble.” And there it was all at once. His extreme annoyance with me at suggesting such, and maybe even failing to note precisely how phenomenal he truly is.

“I meant because of the toe.”

And he caught himself, as much for the killer reveal as for the tone he had taken with me. A tone that was all contempt and cold. Ice-cold cold. Had I said what he thought I said, it would have been deserved. But I hadn’t, and while thinking “fuck you, bro” I also never advanced to thinking it made any sense at all to try my scant heavyweight brazilian jiu jitsu purple belt (at the time) skills against Jones.

“Crazy people are not scared of guns,” he says. “Crazy people are scared of other crazy people.” Indeed.

So on the occasion of the fight that just happened last night, a fight that subjugated my week, I went all spooky Nostradamus on it. Flying out of San Jose Airport I ran into Cormier. Unshaven and with food stuck to his face I figured that that was a sign that Jones would win. My spies in Vegas though told me that in an interview the day before Jones smelled like alcohol. That was a sign that Jones would lose.

In fact Jones, in the end, would and did win, and in the most obvious of fashions, a result that carried to me messages from the beyond. Which is what sports is all about anyway. Seeing even a little of Jones in me or me in Jones, the quality of relatability, I feel a skosh better seeing him, the older man, win in a little over two minutes.

On the other hand he also did seem slower, heavier (well, yeah) and a victim of not just the last three years he’s had off, but time.

And as I write this, my ankle in a cast, and the absence of any clocks around my house that run backward, I’m dreading the sunsetting of Jones, a once in a lifetime talent.

“You know it’s not death that concerns me so much,” a gym sage once told me two hours into our three hour workout. “It’s dying.”

Don’t you know it.

Look What You Made Me Do

From the frontlines to the backline: All Eugene S. Robinson, All the time.

Look What You Made Me Do is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.

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