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Dana White: Jon Jones had 'right to fight,' so canceling Daniel Cormier fight was not an option

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Esther Lin

Several things ran through UFC president Dana White's mind when he received the news from the Nevada Athletic Commission that UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones had tested positive for cocaine metabolites in an out-of-competition drug test conducted in early December.

But one thing that didn't come up was the thought of canceling Jones' UFC 182 title defense against Daniel Cormier.

"No," White said Wednesday, when asked on FOX Sports 1 if he considered canceling the Jan. 3 main event. "No. 1, he was healthy. No. 2, the reason you would stop the fight and the hammer would drop on the guy would be if he tested for performance-enhancing drugs."

White went on to say that he didn't have the legal power to pull Jones out of the fight even if he wanted to, since Jones signed a contract and technically did nothing to violate the agreement.

"The other thing people have to understand in this situation," White said. "Jon Jones was contracted to fight, and everyone thinks we can just say, ‘the fight's off, the fight's not happening.' He had the right to fight."

White also indicated that Cormier, who lost the bout via unanimous decision, was not informed of Jones' test result.

"He doesn't need to be," White said. "If [Jones] had tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, everything would have shut down."

Primarily, though, White focused most on the health and well-being of Jones, who checked into an undisclosed rehab facility on Tuesday.

"This is one of those situations where, it's so different than if a guy gets busted for performance enhancing drugs," White said. "You worry about the person first. Forget about the fighting and the work side of it and you worry about Jon Jones as a person. He got checked into rehab, they're going to be able to evaluate him, and then we'll go from there.

"I talked to him yesterday before he went in, and I hope we'll be able to talk to him again today," White continued. "He was in a good place going in there and he's in an even better place today."

There has been much heat directed at the UFC for the perceived disparity between Jones testing positive for cocaine and heavy punishments meted out to fighters who have tested positive for marijuana in the past. This glosses over the distinction between in-competition and out-of-competition testing, which is conducted by the athletic commissions, not the UFC.

"A couple years ago, if you tested positive for marijuana, fire and brimstone," White said. "It was craziness. We followed the lead of the Nevada State [sic] Athletic Commission. That's what we do. They're the regulators who set the rules and how its going to go down. Obviously with those whole legalization of marijuana, they've become a lot more lenient with that and street drugs."

In the end, White put his best promoter spin on the whole affair.

"Everything happens for a reason," White said. "It's a great thing that guy made a mistake. It's a great thing this happened. Who would have known, we would never have known and get him the help he needs.

"In a situation like this, the last thing you're worried about is his image right now. You're worrying about getting the guy healthy. He'll come back. Whether you like him or not, he's the baddest dude. He's the pound-for-pound best guy in the world."