Jon Jones: Suicide King

“…nobody beats Jon Jones but himself…” -Mike Winkeljohn

Those prophetic words came from Jones’ own coach, and they illustrate the stark contrast between his unbelievable triumphs in the cage with the increasingly bizarre stumbling blocks the champ inflicts upon himself.

This artwork is meant to consider the existence of a complex Jon Jones, one who is simultaneous an apex predator and the master of his own demise. Too often we want a simple explanation, to condense our understanding of a person into a tag line, but the story of Jon Jones is a winding road and the future is unknown. The playing card theme alludes to both the UFC’s base of operations in Las Vegas, but also the idea that Jones is gambling with his legacy, and occasionally his own life. The relationship between the premier MMA organization and the greatest practitioner of said entertainment is often touch and go and while Jones consistently bets on himself it is important to remember that the house always wins.

Jon Jones is truly a marvel once the cage door locks, but perhaps he is not meant to be a peacetime king.

This is a variant on the Suicide King theme. I have spent most of my art career engraving, burning and staining wood, and the red, blue, and gold colors in this piece are wood grain ‘samples’ made for this piece, mixed with ink & digitally arranged. I like blending the digital realm with real life, and the idea of making more than one version of this piece seemed appropriate due to the ever evolving person that is Jon Jones.

It seems that after each traumatic personal event, we are made to think that NOW we’re getting the ‘real’ Jon Jones. It’s more likely that we have always had the real Jon Jones; one who was thrust into the limelight before being fully formed as a man (a common scenario across all sports).

Digging a little deeper, I reached out to esteemed writer and MMA journalist Eugene S. Robinson to get his thought on the one (and future?) king.

Rini: Do you think that Jon Jones is a person who was forced to define himself before he knew himself?

Robinson: I think it’s common and you’ve seen it if you’ve ever known or been associated at all with minister’s kids. He is not his father but when your father talks to God, gets harder to figure out who it is that you are exactly. Or how to really place the human in context of the divine that your father claims to have a line in to.

Rini: Is his story not unlike that of most entertainers who makes a ton of money in their early 20’s, but made more compelling because of the contrast between his dominance in the cage and incompetence outside? Most pro athletes who follow this arc have to deal with losses in a team sense, and are rarely have such an unblemished record (Matt Hamill notwithstanding).

Robinson: In a certain sense the RISE is a much more compelling story narratively speaking. to NOT know if you can do something is the real romance part. That “something” once done? leaves many at odds. Hence Delmore Schwartz. Hence a whole host of one-hit wonders who were so unseated by the RISE that they forgot unless you’re still RISING? You’re falling. and it’s not so much that he is a fuck up outside of the cage as he is totally and painfully NORMAL outside of the cage.

<end conversation>

With that sentiment, that Jon Jones is just like us, I think it crystalizes why he is such a didactic figure. He forces us to confront the facade, so pervasive in sports: that our athletes cannot simply be talented in their chosen field, they must also be role models, triumphs of humanity in all corners, for us to truly accept them.

This is a framed archival print of the Suicide King artwork. It is available on my website Thanks for your time, and I’ll speak to you soon.