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Jon Jones’ USADA arbitration complete, decision expected before NAC hearing

SANTA MONICA, Calif. — The final stage of Jon Jones' doping case with USADA is complete. Now, all he can do is wait.

Jones had his defense heard before three arbitrators Monday at a law office here in a nearly 10-hour session. The interim UFC light heavyweight champion's legal team has requested an expedited decision, with the hopes it will come back before Jones' Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC) disciplinary hearing Nov. 10. It marked the first time a UFC athlete has gone to arbitration with USADA.

Jones, 29, is facing a one-year suspension from USADA, the UFC's anti-doping partner, after testing positive for anti-estrogen agents clomiphene and Letrozol in an out-of-competition drug test, stemming from a sample taken June 16.

The results of the positive test came back July 6, just three days before he was supposed to face Daniel Cormier in a fight to unify the UFC light heavyweight titles at UFC 200 in Las Vegas. Jones was pulled from that bout and provisionally suspended by USADA, missing out on in excess of the $10 million he would have earned from competing in the headliner of the megacard.

On Monday night, Jones declined to be interviewed by MMA Fighting following the arbitration. Jones' attorney Howard Jacobs, perhaps the most respected doping lawyer in the U.S., said he was happy with how the proceedings went.

"I think the evidence all came in and we're happy with sort of how the case went and now we're just gonna wait for the decision," Jacobs said. "It's out of our hands now."

Jones' defense is centered around the claim that he took the banned substances unknowingly, through the ingestion of a tainted supplement or pill. That supplement has not been named by either side. Jacobs said recently on Sirius XM's "The Luke Thomas Show" that both his team and USADA tested the supplement and it came back contaminated for both. But that doesn't mean the case is a slam dunk, either.

"I don't want to get into the details, but there was a lot of evidence that was heard and a lot of argument," Jacobs said. "Think of it like a trial. It's basically like the same. It just takes more time than you would think."

One of the keys for Jones' legal team Monday was the request that the USADA arbitration comes down before Jones' disciplinary hearing in front of the NAC. Jones is facing sanctions from both USADA and the Nevada commission and they don't have to be the same length of suspension, if Jones does get suspended. Nevada has jurisdiction because the drug test was done in relation to his UFC 200 fight in Las Vegas.

Jacobs felt like it could help Jones' case if the USADA decision came back prior to the NAC case being heard. Historically, USADA has been more lenient with sanctions than the commission, especially in cases involving an alleged tainted supplement.

"We think that before Nevada hears the case, it would be useful for them to see how these arbitrators analyzed the same facts and [came] to the decision that they're gonna come to," Jacobs said.

Jacobs said the arbitrators will now discuss the case and come to a consensus. If they can't come to a consensus, then the majority decision will decide it. Jacobs said there were settlement options on the table from USADA, but none that satisfied both parties.

"If we had come to a settlement option that both sides were happy with, we wouldn't have gone to arbitration," Jacobs said.

Jones (22-1) is one of the most decorated fighters in UFC history and still regarded as the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world. He last fought at UFC 197 in April, a unanimous decision win over Ovince Saint Preux. That bout was Jones' comeback fight after he was suspended by the UFC following a felony hit-and-run arrest. "Bones" has fought just that once since early 2015.

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