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Brandon Gibson on Jon Jones: ‘I didn’t see any giant signs or signals [of drug use] through camp’

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

In the wake of Jon Jones’ long roller coaster weekend at UFC 182 -- in which he defended his title gloriously against Daniel Cormier and entered a rehab center for cocaine use less than 72 hours later -- many are still trying to digest the whole thing.

One of those is his striking coach Brandon Gibson, who has been with Jones for over three years at Jackson-Winkeljohn’s in Albuquerque. Jones referred to Gibson as his "secret weapon" heading into his Jan. 3 title defense, due to Gibson’s ability to deconstruct the opposition’s tendencies. The two have formed a tight-knit relationship through Jones’ last eight bouts (all of them successful title defenses). They plan on being together for years to come now that Jones has moved full-time to Albuquerque.

Gibson appeared on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour and said he’s spoken to Jones twice since the champion entered a New Mexico rehab facility. Asked how things were going, Gibson said as well as can be expected.

"Some of it’s going to be outpatient follow-up stuff," he told Ariel Helwani. "So, I didn’t get too many details on that, but you know we just talked more about his process through this -- and I’m going to support him through it. It’s not my job to diagnose or counsel Jon. All I can ultimately do is be there for him as a friend as he goes through this."

Gibson, along with his fellow coaches Mike Winkeljohn and Greg Jackson, found out about the positive cocaine test on the Monday after the Cormier fight, on Jan. 5. Jones, who was "somber" in his delivery, informed the coaches of what was to come, and apologized if reflected poorly "on the team and all the work [they'd] done."

"I was sad," Gibson said. "Obviously I care first and foremost for Jon as a friend, as father, fiancé, son, brother. So I was sad to hear that. He called me a couple of hours before the news was released. He didn’t find out until right before himself, and he was very apologetic about the whole situation to the whole coaching staff."

Gibson said the news cut short the celebration they had long been hoping to have.

"I kind of wanted to ride that high a little bit of beating DC," he said. "That was a huge accomplishment for him. He put a lot of work in, and obviously this took away from that. But it definitely brought to light a more important issue that we have to face."

Gibson also said that the last he had talked to Jones he was still at the rehab facility, but that he believed Jones would be "transitioning to more outpatient stuff and follow-up treatment for the considerable time being."

"As of today, I really don’t know what the exact status of it is," he said.

Much speculation has gone into the severity on Jones’ drug problem, whether it was recreational use or a full-blown dependency, but Gibson said he didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary during training.

"You know, I didn’t see any giant signs or signals through camp," he said. "Jon was probably more disciplined than he’s ever been as far as the work leading up to the DC fight. He wasn’t late for a single workout. I’d see him multiple times a day. I was more focused on his performance objectives, and I didn’t really see these signs, but maybe this brings to light some other things he’s going to have to work out."

Some of the criticism in the aftermath of the whole ordeal has fallen on the shoulders of the Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC), who admitted it made an "administrative oversight" in testing for cocaine in the first place. Jones’ positive test occurred out of competition, on Dec. 4, which shouldn’t have been an issue for the fight itself. Cocaine is a banned substance only for in-competition testing, which typically means 12 hours before/after a fight.

Asked if on this front he thought Jones had been wronged by the Nevada commission, Gibson was torn.

"Each athletic commission is different," he said. "I don’t know. I think in my place it would never be up to me to disclose so much private medical history or background or progress of someone who was even in recovery. I know there’s a silver lining to this. I know that Jon is going to come out of this a better person. He’s going to come out of it more disciplined. So as far as NSAC releasing it, or not releasing it, or even doing it after the fight was over -- I don’t know how much bearing that holds.

"I’m just happy that at least Jon is dealing with it."

One thing Gibson was sure of was that Jones, who is tentatively being looked at to defend his title in July against the winner of Anthony Johnson versus Alexander Gustafsson, would return an even better fighter than he was before the whole mess.

"I’m confident he’ll come out of this stronger than ever," he said. "I think he’s really going to make the most of Albuquerque being his home. We’re not going to have to call it a comeback. I think Jon’s next fight we’re going to see an even greater Jon Jones than what we saw with the DC fight. I think he’s going to continue to fight off these temptations and become a stronger man through all this."