PHOENIX -- No one knows for sure whether former UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones will make it to UFC 197. But just in case Jones' legal troubles end up sidelining the pound-for-pound great, another light heavyweight contender is ready to step up and seize the opportunity to rematch Daniel Cormier on April 23.
That man? Anthony Johnson.
"Anthony has been ready," Johnson's Blackzilian teammate Kamaru Usman told MMA Fighting on Wednesday. "He stays in the gym. He comes in and gets a session here and there. But he's one of those guys that you can just throw in and say, ‘hey, we need to go fight,' and he's ready to go. So Anthony is ready just in case.
"Ultimately he's going to be the guy who steps in there. But I can tell you this: he'll be ready."
Jones is expected to learn his fate Thursday morning at a hearing of the New Mexico Second Judicial District Court, scheduled for 8 a.m. local time. The 28-year-old Jones received five traffic tickets late last week, including one for drag racing, after being pulled over by officer Jason Brown of the Albuquerque Police Department. Body camera footage captured a heated argument between Jones and Brown, during which Jones called Brown a "f*cking liar" and a "pig."
Jones turned himself into Albuquerque authorities Tuesday, as the five tickets violated the terms of his probation. He is currently being held at the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center. The Bernalillo County District Attorney's office is expected to recommend that Jones have his probation revoked, then reinstated on conditions that include a curfew and the completion of an anger management course. Still, Jones' fate ultimately remains in the hands of judge Michael Martinez.
As of this writing, the UFC has declined comment on whether the incident will impact Jones' ability to fight Cormier at UFC 197. If it does, though, it would not be the first time Johnson has been affected by Jones' transgressions.
Last year, Jones withdrew from a scheduled fight against Johnson at UFC 187 after being involved in a hit-and-run automobile accident. With Jones suspended, Johnson instead fought Cormier and lost, succumbing to a third-round rear-naked choke.
Johnson has since ripped off back-to-back wins and revamped his grappling game under the tutelage of acclaimed Blackzilian coach Neil Melanson.
"Immediately, when we got back, he knew what was missing in that fight," Usman said. "He got the coaching situation squared away and he got the coach that he needed, that he felt he was lacking in that fight. He wants to make sure that never happens again, so he corrected that right away.
"You can see it in his fights. He takes guys take now if he wants to. He stands up and strikes. He defends takedowns. So he's an all-around package now."
To underscore his improvement, Johnson blasted through Ryan Bader in just 86 seconds in his most recent performance, cementing himself as the next No. 1 contender of the light heavyweight division.
While it is unlikely that Jones will ultimately be forced out of UFC 197, if history somehow ends up repeating itself, Usman said Johnson will be more than available.
"You don't want to wish something negative on guys, because he's a very respectful guy. But, this is the fight business," Usman said. "Things happen all the time. And so Anthony is one of those guys, he is going to be ready. Whether something happens or not, he is going to be ready for that.
"He would love that Daniel Cormier fight back."