The UFC has booked its first show in New York this spring, pending legal obstacles, but the big Jon Jones-Daniel Cormier rematch won't be on it. At least if Cormier has anything to do with it.
Cormier said after defending the UFC light heavyweight title against Alexander Gustafsson on Saturday night at UFC 192 in Houston that he will not fight Jones in New York. The champion said that Jones does not deserve to return in his home state.
"Why should I allow this guy to go and fight where he's comfortable?" Cormier said at the post-fight press conference. "No, he has to go somewhere where he has to look at people in the eyes and hear the anger they have toward him for the actions that he did."
Jones, who hails from upstate New York, is currently suspended by the UFC indefinitely following his arrest in April on a felony hit-and-run charge. However, the former champion could be back soon. On Tuesday, Jones was given conditional discharge and 18 months of probation. He will not get any jail time and the UFC is set to consider lifting his ban pending a third-party investigation.
Last week, the UFC announced that it had scheduled a show at Madison Square Garden on April 23, 2016. The promotion would need a judge to grant it an injunction to do it since pro MMA is essentially illegal in the state. If it goes through, Cormier doesn't want anything to do with fighting Jones there.
"I just think at the end of the day, when Jones gets reinstated, New York is the only place that he'll be welcomed without just venomous anger," Cormier said. "This is where he's from. So they will actually care for him. They will cheer him. Just as you take me to Lafayette, Louisiana, it doesn't matter what I do. They will cheer me."
Jones beat Cormier via unanimous decision to defend the title at UFC 182 back in January. A day after Jones was arrested April 27, he was suspended and stripped of the title. Cormier filled in for him against Anthony Johnson at UFC 187 in May and won the vacant title.
In a five-round war Saturday night, Cormier made his first title defense against Gustafsson. Jones posted an Instagram video expressing approval toward his bitter rival, but then quickly deleted it. Jones also posted another clip saying he missed fighting and then also deleted that.
Jones, the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, will likely be back sometime next year and probably against Cormier. That is fine with the current champion, as long as that fight does not take place in the Big Apple.
"I think he's the greatest fighter of all time," Cormier said. "And when he gets cleared to fight, we'll fight. But I'm not gonna fight him in New York. So you guys can write that."