Three months have passed since the UFC formally reinstated Jon Jones from indefinite suspension. Three months of speculation, Instagram updates and cross-divisional teasing, all while the fight world waited on official word for the return of former light heavyweight king.
Well, expect that wait to end soon.
"We expect to have an announcement within the next couple of days here," UFC vice president of public relations Dave Sholler said of Jones on Saturday at UFC on FOX 18's post-fight press conference. "Things are shaking out, and I think you guys are going to be pleased with the outcome."
Jones, 28, is expected to immediately challenge for the UFC light heavyweight title upon his return, setting up a blockbuster rematch against current champion Daniel Cormier. The two have long been rumored to be preparing for an April 23 date at UFC 197, which remains without a main event.
That event was initially booked for Madison Square Garden in Jones' home state of New York. However, this past week, Judge Kimba Wood of the Southern District of New York denied Zuffa's preliminary injunction request to allow the UFC to circumvent New York's ban on MMA while the company's lawsuit against the state works its way through the courts, forcing the UFC to look elsewhere for its April card.
Jones (21-1) is widely considered to be the No. 1-ranked pound-for-pound fighter in the sport. He became the youngest UFC fighter to ever win gold when he captured the light heavyweight title in March 2011 at the age of 23. Jones defended his belt eight times, culminating in a unanimous decision over Cormier in Jan. 2015, before being stripped of the title in April 2015 due to his involvement in a hit-and-run accident that left one pregnant victim with a broken arm.
Jones ultimately pled guilty to a felony charge of leaving the scene of an accident and was granted a conditional discharge by Judge Charles Brown in Bernalillo County Second Judicial District Court. The terms of his plea deal ordered Jones to serve 18 months of supervised probation and hold 72 charity speaking appearances with children over the course of his probation.
With Jones on suspension, Cormier (17-1) defeated Anthony Johnson to claim the vacant title at UFC 187, then defended the belt with a dramatic five-round victory against Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 192.
The two have traded barbs ever since, resuming a rivalry that drew an estimated 800,000 pay-per-view buys for its first iteration at UFC 182, the highest buyrate of either fighter's lengthy career.