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Plea hearing set for former UFC champion Jon Jones in hit-and-run case

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Jon Jones will be in front of a judge before the end of the month.

The former UFC light heavyweight champion will have a plea hearing in Albuquerque's Second Judicial District Court on Sept. 29 at 8:30 a.m. local time, according to official New Mexico court documents. Jones was arrested in April and is facing a felony charge of leaving the scene of an accident involving great bodily harm or death.

Documents obtained by MMA Fighting this week indicated that Jones' legal team is positioning him for a plea deal. On Monday, the case was transferred from Metropolitan Court to Second Judicial District Court and assigned to judge Charles Brown. The judicial assignment document reads that the case is coming to Brown's court "on the stipulation of the parties for the entry of a pre-indictment plea."

Jones, 28, was not required to cop a plea unless he was indicted and an indictment would have only come from a grand jury. Jones' case was never taken to a grand jury and the fact that it is now in Second Judicial District Court means it has bypassed that step.

On April 26, Jones allegedly ran a red light in a rented SUV, striking a car driven by a pregnant woman and allegedly fled the scene afterward. The woman broke her arm in the collision. After Albuquerque police could not find him for nearly 24 hours, Jones turned himself in and was arrested on a felony hit-and-run charge.

At that point, the Bernalillo County district attorney had 60 days to determine whether or not to bring the case to a grand jury. Those 60 days expired in June, but there was still a possibility of it seeing a grand jury until this week.

Jones was suspended by the UFC and stripped of his title one day after the arrest. He was supposed to defend the belt against Anthony Johnson in the main event of UFC 187 in May. Instead, Daniel Cormier replaced him and beat Johnson for the vacant strap.

Jones, the the best pound-for-pound MMA fighter in the world, has not fought since beating Cormier in the main event of UFC 182 last January. He was the youngest champion in UFC history at age 23 when he beat Mauricio Rua in 2011.

Cormier makes his first light heavyweight title defense against Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 192 in Houston on Oct. 3 -- four days after Jones' plea hearing.