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MMA

Jon Jones pulled from UFC 200

“Jon Jones, get your sh*t together, I’m waitin’ for you!”

That was his only message.  After defeating Anthony Johnson via submission at UFC 187 last May, winning the light heavyweight title vacated by Jon Jones in the process, Daniel Cormier had nothing else to say.

It appears that Cormier may have to wait a little longer.

Cormier and Jones were set to fight in a rematch this Saturday, in the main event of UFC 200, but late Wednesday night it was announced that Jones had been pulled from the event after the results of an out-of-competition drug test revealed that Jones had potentially violated the US Anti-Drug Administration’s (USADA) anti-doping policy. With the event only three days away, the UFC and the Nevada State Athletic Commission were left with no choice but to pull Jones from the card.

This is just the latest in a series of issues for Jones. After defeating Cormier at UFC 182, it was revealed that Jones had tested positive for cocaine metabolites in another out-of-competition drug test. The following April he was stripped of his title after fleeing the scene of a hit-and-run which broke the arm of one of the other drivers in the accident (who was also pregnant). He was stripped of his title for the latter and after amending for his mistakes, was set to face Cormier again at UFC 197 in April. Cormier withdrew from the event with a foot injury, and Jones defeated Ovince St. Preux by decision to win the interim title, setting up the rematch at UFC 200 (Which, by the way, I predicted in my UFC 197 recap).

Jones could reportedly face a two-year suspension, as this is could be his second failed drug test in a year and a half. However, a shorter suspension would not be unprecedented. Earlier in the year, UFC welterweight Tim Means was put in a similar scenario this past February, but was ultimately only handed a 6-month suspension after his failed test was revealed to be from a tainted supplement. I certainly don’t have a degree in sports medicine, but the concept of a ‘potential’ violation raises fewer red flags than an outright failed drug test. Speculating further, if it is revealed that Jones took a banned performance-enhancing supplement, perhaps he would still receive a shorter sentence because his previously failed drug test was for an illicit substance rather than a performance-enhancing one. However, if Jones does receive a two-year ban, I have doubts about his future in the sport.

How did we get here?

Jones entered the MMA spotlight in 2009. After starting his UFC career with three wins, he fought Matt Hamill at The Ultimate Fighter 10 finale. Jones ragdolled Hamill to the floor and pounded away on him with punches and elbows, a few of which were deemed to be illegal. Referee Steve Mazzagatti stopped the fight due to the illegal strikes, and asked Hamill (who is deaf, by the way) if he could continue. When Hamill failed to respond (because, well, he’s deaf), Mazzagatti waved off the fight and declared Hamill the winner by disqualification. Jones, to his credit, took the loss in stride, saying he would grow from the experience. After defeating Brandon Vera, Vladimir Matyushenko, and Ryan Bader in his next three fights, Jones was offered a title shot against Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua, after Jones’ then-teammate Rashad Evans had to pull from his scheduled fight with Rua with an injury. Jones, who had won fans over with his flashy, unorthodox fighting style and humble demeanor, would go on to defeat Rua via (T)KO at UFC 128 in March 2011- but not before stopping a mugger on the morning of the fight. However, as his legend grew, his good-guy persona would fade.

Jones completed his legendary 2011 run by submitting former champions Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson at UFC 135, and Lyoto Machida at UFC 140, the latter of whom he choked unconscious (not out of malice, Machida simply refused to tap out) and nonchalantly dropped to the ground after the referee stepped in to stop the fight. After the fight, Jones’ coach Greg Jackson was heard urging Jones to go and check on Machida, not necessarily out of sportsmanship, but to gain some fans. The following spring, Jones would be arrested for a DUI, something he had earlier claimed UFC fans and officials wouldn’t have to worry about him doing. In the summer of 2012, Jones was set to face Dan Henderson at UFC 151, when Henderson pulled out of the fight with a knee injury. The card had already been decimated by injuries, and when Jones refused to face Chael Sonnen (who was a just over a month removed from losing a middleweight title bout to Anderson Silva) as a late replacement, the card was cancelled.

While there were many parties to find at fault in the situation (Henderson’s camp for reportedly not disclosing the injury sooner, and the UFC for over-saturating their calendar with events) Jones took a fair amount of the criticism for refusing to take the fight. Finally, aside from his transgressions over the past year and a half, Jones has been criticized by opponents and fans alike for frequently poking his opponents in the eye, and using front kicks to his opponents legs (which run a greater risk of knee injury than other leg kicks), and he makes no apologies for it. He seems to embrace his role as a heel, and his rivalry with Cormier has spanned nearly two years at this point. But, there’s a difference between being a heel and acting irresponsibly.

Possible Suspension

If the upcoming investigation reveals that Jones did in fact take a performance-enhancing supplement, and he’s handed a two-year suspension, I honestly could take or leave his presence in the sport. If that were the case, it would be apparent that he learned nothing in the 15 months he was away from the sport between UFC 182 and UFC 197.

It’s one thing to talk trash to your opponents, and generally be smug and condescending for the sake of selling tickets. That’s fine. But acting in ways that put your own health and the safety of others in danger is a completely different story. I think Daniel Cormier said it best, Jon. Get your sh*t together.

Meanwhile, back at UFC 200 (he typed in a 1970’s superhero cartoon narrator voice), a heavyweight fight between returning former champion Brock Lesnar and former K-1 (kickboxing) champion Mark Hunt will serve as the evening’s main event. I was skeptical about Lesnar’s return to MMA to begin with, as he retired from the sport in 2011 after two serious bouts with diverticulitis. I get it, Lesnar was a huge draw during his first stint in MMA, and will also likely draw WWE fans to watch the event. But to make it the main event of a card that still features two title fights is absurd.

I wasn’t a fan when Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz served as the main event of UFC 196 over the women’s bantamweight title fight between Miesha Tate and Holly Holm, but at least McGregor was (and still is) a UFC champion who had been preparing to fight for a title that night.

In my opinion, the interim featherweight title fight between former champion Jose Aldo and former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar should serve as the main event, especially since that fight has ramifications that could involve Conor McGregor (who, by the way, I can’t stand, but at least he’s not driving drunk or causing hit-and-run accidents).

At the time of writing, no announcement has been made on which fight will the empty slot on the pay-per-view portion of the event, but my guess would be either TJ Dillashaw vs. Raphael Assuncao or Johny Hendricks vs. Kelvin Gastelum, as both Dillashaw and Hendricks are former UFC champions. Finally, I do expect that Cormier will be paid his show (and possibly win) money, but there are rumblings that he may still compete on the card, perhaps at heavyweight.

Stay tuned for more UFC fight weekend coverage, and don’t forget to check out my UFC Fight Night: dos Anjos vs. Alvarez preview. Thanks for reading.

Photo credit: THQ Insider via Visual hunt / CC BY-ND
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