The JB Vault: “Mad Mike” Jones - Dirt Bike "OG"

By Jerry Bernardo

By Jerry Bernardo

The term “OG” or “original gangster” refers to someone who was a pioneer in a specific industry or genre, a person who was right there at the beginning, as in freestyle motocross during its birthing stages. There aren’t many people who can claim legend status within that realm, but I know from personal experience that “Mad Mike” Jones has done the hard yards and earned his stripes throughout the years. From the early days racing motocross around the globe to a gold medal at the X Games to insane, fan-packed Crusty tours, “Mad Mike” has seen and done it all.

Unfortunately, he can’t remember any of it so he’s going to do it all over! He has been on top of the mountain and been [allegedly] buried six feet deep by his own hand, but the ultimate FMX showman isn’t dead yet. Following a sketchy media bashing after a pretty massive blowout at the Miami airport, everyone was pretty sure old “Jonesy” had gone off the rails. Speculation is not a part of good journalism so I got in touch with someone I consider a brother-from-another-mother and had him set the record straight. Did he do something crazy? The answer would be a lot shorter if I told you how many times he didn’t. After all, his nickname is “Mad”!

The author (Jerry Bernardo), Mad Mike and [the now] ‎Director at ShowTime FMX Gary Reid. Photo credit: Crusty Tour Roadie.

JB: There’s an unwritten rule that you can’t give yourself a nickname. You’ve had yours for many years. Who dubbed you “Mad Mike”?

MJ: I was at a race over in Italy with Jeremy McGrath and Guy Cooper and all the top motocross racers. I decided to stand on my seat and grab the front brake and flip over the handlebars to try to land on my feet. I ended up winning the contest (it was a jump contest during a motocross race) and took all the big boys out. The promoter kept saying, “You’re mad; you’re mad, Mike!” I looked at “MC” (McGrath) and he agreed and it stuck from that very day.

JB: I still consider you one of the pioneers of freestyle motocross. Why don’t you tell me who do you think are the top five “OGs” besides you?

MJ: Let’s see—me, Clifford Adoptante, Travis Pastrana, Mike Metzger, Brian Deegan and Seth—though he (Sethro) wasn’t really a true freestyler, but he was definitely one of the original Crusty Demons.

JB: I know you have a big place in your heart for Australia. How many times have you been here?

MJ: Eighty-five.

JB: So the first time you came here to Oz, were you involved with the Crustys or just doing some jump shows?

Photo credit: Mark Peterson [Peto] image.

MJ: I first came to Australia in 1989 for Phil Christiansen Promotions to race motocross. I raced all the top guys from back in the day, including Chad Reed. I can remember beating Chad when he was a kid. I started racing and doing what they called “expression sessions” during intervals—that’s where a big part of freestyle started in Australia with Gordon Ward doing a heel-clicker during a jump show at a motocross race.

JB: I know you’ve invented quite a few tricks yourself. Which ones did you do first?

MJ: I was the first guy to land with no hands, first guy to do the Kiss of Death. Let’s see—Seat Grab Flatty, Coffin, Surfer Whip and some of the variations, but the main ones are the first couple I mentioned.

JB: And I have to add the other tricks you started were all the famous “Mad Mike” phone tricks in the bars late at night when you were on the turps!

MJ: (laughs) There’s way too many of them to list—I would have to show you!

JB: We could both derail this whole interview right now if we asked you what really happens in the clubs at night after a Crusty show when “Mad Mike” is in full swing!

MJ: I have had at least 40 or 50 people including top guys like McGrath and even celebrities tell me I should write a book. I think I’m going to have to do that soon and explain how things went from Mike Jones to “Mad Mike” back to Mike Jones. I’m trying to be a good boy these days, Jerry.

JB: If you need any content from me, I would consider it a privilege to be included in some of those writing duties.

MJ: Yeah, I appreciate that. That’s what I want to do: ask everybody to give me one or two Mike Jones stories including guys like Larry Ward, McGrath, Chad Reed and Pro Circuit’s Mitch Payton. The list goes on!

JB: One of the highlights of your career was you winning the gold medal at the X Games with the Kiss of Death. Soon after that, all the younger freestylers started flipping and you never really got that trick dialled. You kind of started to fall off the bubble. Was that the beginning of the end of the “Mad Mike” era in freestyle?

MJ: In 2001 I won X Games gold and then in 2002 I won a silver. In 2003 I went for the barrel roll and got knocked unconscious and cracked a bone in my hip. That was the last X Games that I did. Then I was back-flipping at Travis Pastrana’s house and landed short and got knocked out and wasn’t breathing. I had to get life-flighted and almost died. It was right then I thought, “I’m 40 years old. It’s time to do it for fun and not get crazy anymore.” [Mike just celebrated his 51st birthday on March 26th.]

JB: Can we also add the part where Travis’ mom rode double with you into the foam pit? You tried a backflip and she did not fair so well in the adventure.

MJ: Not too many people know about that. She wanted to flip with me—she had just gotten home from church and still had her high heels on. I had flipped the day before with Trevor Vines’ girlfriend. Travis told everyone that came down the driveway, “You have to flip with Mad Mike!” I couldn’t believe [Travis’ mom] wanted to, and that’s what happened. I apologized, though.

JB: (laughing) ”Yeah, I’m sorry that I broke your neck!”

Photo: credit: Jerry Bernardo.

Photo: credit: Jerry Bernardo.

JB: Now moving ahead to the incident at the airport in Miami. We—the public—only got what the media fed us. Tell me what actually happened on the day that you “flipped out” in the Miami airport.

MJ: To skip most of what led up to it, I got in an incident with a guy outside. I came back into the airport with just my backpack—they had lost my luggage—I had a mohawk hairdo and a black eye and “Mad Mike” on my knuckles (Jonesy is pretty scary looking on a good day!) so I didn’t look too appealing to an officer at the airport. They told me to get on the ground. I did. They told me to push the backpack away. I did. I then stood up with my hands out to my side and said, “What’s going on?” Right then they shot me with a Taser. (Most police Tasers discharge 50,000 volts, but that’s only to make the initial contact between the Taser’s probes and the skin. Once contact is made, the voltage drops to about 1200 at about 19 pulses per second. Jonsey was rumored to have been Tased five times!) Then they came at me and that’s the last thing I remember because I blacked out. I guess I took on five police officers. I don’t remember any of it; all I know is coming to and seeing the five cops with ice on their noses and ears and knees. So I have now been diagnosed as bipolar (bipolar disorder is an condition characterized by periods of mania alternating with periods of depression, usually interspersed with relatively long intervals of normal mood). When they tested me there was no drugs or alcohol in my system. I reckon that’s what everyone thought, that I was partying and went crazy.

JB: When I saw the mug shot, I automatically assumed the black eye was from the fight with the cops. You showed up at the airport with the black eye?

MJ: I got that black eye in Costa Rica. I already had the mohawk, too, so that’s how I showed up at the airport.

JB: So on the back side of all that mayhem, what were the actual criminal charges?

MJ: Assault and battery on a police officer, resisting arrest—those were two third-degree felonies so that means up to five years in jail for each one of them.

JB: Where is all that at right now?

MJ: I just got done with it. I went to two different doctors and had an MRI on my brain. Because of all my concussions (he’s had at least 12 severe concussions), with bipolar sometimes you’re on a high, sometimes you’re on a low. That, combined with not taking my medication, I guessed I snapped.

JB: What did your wife Christine say about all this?

MJ: She stood behind me the whole time once she understood what the circumstances were. I had two different doctors diagnose me with bipolar. That’s what you have to do to have it stand up in court. I’m now on a diversion program and meds and now everything should be good. Now I go to bed at midnight and get up at 8:00 A.M. I’m feeling pretty good.

JB: Well, my brother, let me say this to you—you’re not the only person in the world who’s taking “happy pills” just to lead a normal life. You just started your life out with a crazy nickname! Can you tell everyone what is tattooed on the inside of your lip?

MJ: “Mad Mike” (laughs)!

JB: When’s the next time we’re going to see you here in Australia?

MJ: I want to come back to Australia real bad and do some shows. I want to give the fans what they didn’t get back in the day. I would like to do big autograph sessions and not charge the fans $20 for a hundred people to get us to sign like the old promoter did. I want to give back to the fans of the Crusty Demons what they have been giving to us all these years.

JB: Thanks, Mad. Now don’t forget to take your pills!

MJ: No worries, Jerry. Thanks.

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