The downfall of one of mixed martial arts’ biggest stars has been one of the more painful things to happen to the sport in many years.
A few short years ago, Jon Jones was considered to be the poster boy for the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Jones became the youngest champion ever, with his fights selling out arenas all over North America and Jones was on pace to becoming the greatest fighter in the history of the sport. Now, Jones finds himself to be the UFC’s biggest lightning rod for controversy.
Over the past few years, Jones fall from grace has been swift. Jones fought with Daniel Cormier at a pre-UFC 178 press conference in August 2014. In January 2015, it was announced that Jones failed an out-of-competition drug test, testing positive for cocaine. A few months later, in April 2015, Jones was cited for hit-and-run and possession of marijuana after he caused a three-car accident in Albuquerque, New Mexico and fled the scene. Shortly thereafter, the UFC stripped Jon Jones of his Light Heavyweight Championship.
Jones had seemingly gotten his life together in the past 15 months. He completed 72 court-ordered appearances related to charity/youth outreach programs, which allowed him to avoid jail time. Jones then scheduled the rematch for his Light Heavyweight Championship against Daniel Cormier.
Jones returned to the octagon on April 23, 2016 but not against Cormier, due to a leg injury that forced him to pull out just 22 days prior. Jones still decided to fight and went on to defeat Ovince Saint Preux to become the interim UFC Light Heavyweight Champion. Shortly following that interim title victory, all eyes turned back to Jones/Cormier and just four days later, the UFC announced that Jon Jones would finally face Daniel Cormier in a UFC Light Heavyweight Championship unification bout at UFC 200 on July 9, in Las Vegas. Every thing was lining up for a night of celebration and redemption for Jon Jones, and then the news broke.
USADA has informed Jon Jones of a potential doping violation. He is off UFC 200.
— Brett Okamoto (@bokamotoESPN) July 7, 2016
What an absolute bombshell of a breaking news story this turned out to be. As minutes turned into hours, more details trickled out.
“I can confirm that he (Jones) has been notified of a potential anti-doping policy violation stemming of an out-of-competition test on June 16,” USADA spokesman Ryan Madden told media members.
UFC President Dana White went on to confirm that these test results are very real. “They basically said he’s (Jones) is out and he’s tested for a banned substance,” White told “The Herd’s” Colin Cowherd. “Basically, for the B-sample to not be the same, especially when there’s two different agents I think, it would be like hitting the lottery for that to come up negative.”
Jon Jones was scheduled to face Daniel Cormier this Saturday at UFC 200 in Las Vegas, in what was expected to be one of the biggest title fights and most anticipated rematches in the history of the UFC.
“I know they spent a lot to promote this event,” an emotional Jones told the media. “Daniel Cormier, I want to apologize to Daniel Cormier. I know that this fight means a lot to him. The fight means a lot to me and the fight is not happening. So I just want to apologize everyone sincerely.”
This fight being pulled marks the 3rd time, out of 4 attempts, that a Cormier/Jones fight has failed to materialize, with the original matchup at UFC 182 being the only matchup between the fighters.
“It’s crazy,” White said to the media on Thursday. “This guy (Jones) might be the greatest talent that this sport has ever seen, but he cannot get it together.”
Taking a step away from Jon Jones, put yourself in the shoes of Daniel Cormier for a moment. Only one man has ever defeated Daniel Cormier in his professional MMA career, that man is Jon Jones. Cormier has one objective in his career – prove that he can defeat the unbeatable Jon Jones.
The UFC has provided video of the moment when Dana White gave Daniel Cormier the unfortunate news. To catch the precise moment, you’ll want to start the below video at 4:10 to see Cormier’s response to the unfortunate news.
A very emotional moment for the current UFC Light Heavyweight Champion. Cormier will still fight this weekend at UFC 200, except it will now be a non-title fight against UFC legend Anderson Silva.
“I worked really hard to prepare for this and, you know, take care of what you can take care of and that’s what I did,” Cormier told MMAFighting.com. “But more than anything, just really disappointed. To hear something like this is very sad from a competitive standpoint from a financial standpoint, there are a number of ways this is disappointing. I really don’t know how to explain how I’m feeling right now.”
When Jones met the media, he understandably was very emotional.
“I told him (UFC Owner Lorenzo Fertitta) I would never cheat,” Jones said. “I pride myself in my work ethic, and just apologized to him for the whole thing happening.”
Jones’ representative and long-time manager Malki Kawa took a strong stance against Jones’ failed test. “Without saying too much more, I feel like by the time this is all said and done, it will be all right.” When asked if this positive test could be related to a tainted supplement, Kawa told the media, “It could be. I don’t want to say much more than that because I want to go through all the reasonable steps. But it could be.”
Kawa also pointed out to the media that Jones has taken, and passed, 8 random USADA-implemented drug tests since last December.
It is likely that the “B” sample will return with the same, positive result. This will begin to get the wheels turning for the UFC, the USADA and the Jon Jones camp. Due to the fight happening in Nevada, Jones will not only face a suspension from the USADA but the Nevada Athletic Commission as well.
With the case of tainted substances, the UFC and USADA stands firm but there is precedent here for Jon Jones.
UFC fighter Yoel Romero tested positive in an out-of-competition test before UFC 194. Romero’s legal team fought tooth-and-nail that the positive test was related to a tainted substance.
According to the USADA, the rules appear to be very cut and dry. “Under the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, as well as the World Anti-Doping Code, the determination that an athlete’s positive test was caused by a contaminated product may result in a reduced sanction. The sanction for a doping offense resulting from the use of a contaminated product ranges from a reprimand and no period of ineligibility, at a minimum, to a two-year period of ineligibility, at a maximum.”
After the USADA confirmed that the supplement was indeed tainted, Romero’s 9 month suspension was negotiated down to a 6 month suspension. This provides some hope for Jones and his camp, who are staring down the barrel of a potential 2-year suspension.
No matter what happens next, Jon Jones says his UFC fighting career will definitely continue.
“If I do have to sit out for two years, I’ll definitely back,” an emotional Jones told the media. “I’m just optimistic, man. At the end of the day, I’m a fighter, and even though I may seem broken up here, I’m not broken. I’m just really upset.”
How much more rope will the UFC give Jon Jones before pulling the plug? That is the question everyone wonders at this point. The sport will continue to grow without the star power of Jon Jones, but fans of the UFC know that the sport is better with Jon Jones inside the octagon.