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Jon Jones has learned from DWI

UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones is interviewed

UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones is interviewed during a Jon Jones / UFC media event at Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts & Fitness Academy in Albuquerque, New Mexico (April 8, 2013) Credit: Getty Images

Jon Jones is far from the average 25-year-old man, be it in the cage or out.

No matter how hard the UFC light heavyweight champion tried to deny that reality -- same friends, same town, same hangout places -- his earlier definition of "normal" had to be rewritten. It took a telephone pole and a blood alcohol level above the legal limit to drive that point home for Jones.

"Having a DWI, where there was injuries involved and stuff like that, it really opened my eyes right away," he said. "I realized right at that moment that I could have been sued. I could have . . . I could have . . . way worse things could have happened.''

There were no significant injuries from that May 19 crash and arrest for driving while intoxicated in Binghamton. Jones later pleaded guilty, had his license suspended for six months, paid a fine and avoided jail time.

Compared with those "worse things" that could have occurred, a hit to his public image was minimal. Or, as Jones called that May 2012 incident in Binghamton, "a true blessing."

"To have handcuffs on and stuff like that after having the same cops that like you and say 'Oh, great job, champ,' " Jones said. "Having the same cops have to handcuff you and look at you on the other side, it was just very, very, very humbling and it taught me a lot."

Jones has fought once since that night, a fourth-round submission win over Vitor Belfort at UFC 152 last September. He'll fight again this Saturday at UFC 159 when he defends his light heavyweight title against Chael Sonnen at the Prudential Center in Newark.

In the cage, Jones (17-1) is the embodiment of the modern mixed martial artist, a fighter skilled in every area rather than specializing in one and hoping to get by in the others. That's the old MMA. Jones is the new MMA.

He has a wrestling pedigree -- 2005 New York State champion at Union-Endicott High School -- yet he's among the most creative strikers in the game. He seemingly invents new angles, new approaches and new combinations of launching his hands, elbows, feet and knees at his opponent.

A win Saturday over the 9-1 underdog Sonnen (28-12-1), in the same arena where the Rochester native and Ithaca resident first won the title in 2011, would be Jones' fifth straight title defense. That would tie Tito Ortiz for the UFC record in the 205-pound division, set from 2002-05.

Things could have been a lot different had things gone slightly differently in the early hours last May. It was a moment of instant maturation said Jones, a father of four.

"It showed me that you could very easily be on that other side of the spectrum," Jones said. "I'm very grateful for what I've been through. You need somebody to punch you in the face sometimes to remind you that you're not Casper."

New York Sports