With the dust settled from one of the wildest, most unpredictable weeks in mixed martial arts history, it is clear that no one took a greater hit than Jon Jones.
The former UFC light heavyweight champion was pulled from the main event of UFC 200 just days before his rematch against Daniel Cormier after testing positive for two banned substances in a random June 16 drug test administered by USADA. Jones' shocking removal from the card came just hours after a pre-fight press conference at which Jones appeared to be in high spirits, and set forth a chain of events that reshaped the bicentennial event in a way few could have imagined.
"It was heartbreaking," Jones' manager Malki Kawa said Monday on The MMA Hour. "It was really heartbreaking, because you tell him this and he's looking at me like, ‘what are you talking about?' He thought that it couldn't be for real. This can't happening. The team thought the same thing.
"Everybody was just excited, we're going through fight week, things are going as planned, everything is great, the weight cut is awesome, he's in great spirits, the team is fired up, everybody is around him, we're doing our thing, and basically I walk out into the hallway and have to break the news to everybody that we're not fighting. It went from excitement to as if I told somebody that somebody died. It was that quiet."
The aftermath that followed the announcement of Jones' test is one that will not soon be forgotten.
Jones and Kawa held a joint press conference the morning after Cormier and UFC president Dana White broke the news. At it, Jones grew emotional as he reflected on the realities and gravity of the situation. White then went on a media tour ripping his embattled star fighter and suggesting that Jones should have "cleaned house" and ridded himself of those who were "supposed to be looking out for him."
Meanwhile, the UFC scrambled to find a replacement for Jones and ultimately settled on former middleweight champion Anderson Silva, guaranteeing that Jones would miss the biggest paycheck of his professional career.
"You're talking about an eight-figure payday," Kawa said. "Eight figures. Conor (McGregor) can talk about whatever he gets and all of that, Jon is by far the highest paid guy in the UFC, and the numbers that were shown that day for everybody from Brock (Lesnar) and the way down, Jon was making more than all of that. So for me, we lost out on an eight-figure payday, including myself. I wasn't going to make eight figures, but I was going to get a percentage of that. The team was going to get a percentage of that. If you think that by any chance I'm going to sit here and be like, ‘hey man, take this supplement,' then I'm just as stupid as the people who think that I'm an enabler."
Jones' team has thus far elected not to disclose the names of the two banned substances that Jones popped for, with both Jones and Kawa expressing belief that a tainted supplement was the culprit of the failed test, similar to the recent cases of UFC fighters Tim Means and Yoel Romero. Kawa doubled down on that sentiment on Monday, while also clarifying why Jones' team has declined to name the substances found in Jones' system.
"I want to explain to everybody why I don't disclose anything about it," Kawa said. "It's not that we're trying to hide anything or that we're not trying to get ahead of it and tell people what it is. I'm going to stand by our comments at the press conference. Jon, at no point in time, was a cheater, has never cheated, has never taken any substance that he knowingly knew of that was on the banned list. The same thing I did with Yoel Romero. You remember I came on your show, I said ‘hey guys, look, he didn't cheat, we have an idea of where this thing could've possibly come from,' and that's only because we get notified.
"You take supplements, it could be anything. You could take freaking protein powder in a basic form, BCAAs, anything, and if it's tainted with anything -- the thing is people don't understand, these supplements get made in manufacturing plants, and although it's just supposed to be protein, the batch before that might've been some sort of testosterone booster that had some something illegal in it. So, if they don't clean the machines out and all of a sudden that can be in that batch.
"What I've always said about USADA, and what I've always tried to tell everybody is that a guy who walks into GNC and buys some supplements and goes home and takes them and then he gets in trouble for that, he isn't cheater," Kawa continued. "He isn't a person who's trying to cheat. So before I can come out and say, 'look, he took this and this supplement,' I have to go get those supplements. I have to get them and put them in my hands so I can get them tested, right?
"If I come out and say ‘these are the products we think he took and this is the substance he failed for,' then the people at the stores will start to clear their shelves out and all of that other stuff. So before that happens, I've got to grab the stuff, get it and have it in my hands, and then I can come out and say, ‘look you guys, here's what it is, here's the substance we think caused it, we're having it tested, and then in a couple weeks we should know the answer and really get to the bottom of it.'"
Kawa said that Jones was still "upset," but that his mindset was in a good place and as of Monday the light heavyweight great was focused on moving forward with the case.
Jones not only faces a two-year suspension if found guilty by USADA, but also punishment from the Nevada Athletic Commission, a group with whom Jones has history. However Kawa reiterated that he staunchly believes Jones when he says he is not a cheater, and expects that the process of testing everything Jones took during camp will ultimately reveal the source of the banned substances that caused so much trouble.
"It came from something," Kawa said. "I can tell you that much, whether it's a supplement, there's medication that he took that was prescribed to him by a doctor -- it could've from there. There's a whole bunch of different things that lead to these things across all athletes. So as this point right now, I don't know. I have an idea, but I have to get that tested before I can sit there and say it."