The former UFC light heavyweight champion, who was scheduled to meet current champion Daniel Cormier in the main event at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, was pulled Wednesday night due to a potential violation in a USADA drug test administered on June 16.
In a hastily arranged Las Vegas press conference, UFC president Dana White indicated that a new opponent for Cormier hasn't been ruled out.
"Maybe someone will pop up and fight Cormier at the last minute," White said. "Stranger things have happened."
UFC Vice President of Athlete Health and Performance Jeff Novitzky noted in a statement that Jones has yet been declared guilty of the allegations, but, given the proximity of the company receiving the results and the fight itself, there wasn't time to conduct a review, thus necessitating the fight cancelation.
"The UFC was notified tonight that the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has informed Jon Jones of a potential anti-doping policy violation stemming from an out-of-competition sample collection on June 16, 2016," Novitzky said. "USADA, an independent administrator of the anti-doping policy, will handle results management and appropriate adjudication of this case. It is important to note that under the UFC anti-doping policy, there is a full, fair legal review process that is afforded to all athletes before any sanctions are imposed. However, because Jones was scheduled to fight Cormier this coming Saturday, July 9 in Vegas, there is insufficient time for a full review before the scheduled bout, and therefore the bout has been removed from the fight card.
White, who was eating dinner at Mandalay Bay when he got the news, said he does not know for which substance Jones allegedly popped, and that he had not yet spoken to Jones or any of his representatives.
"I don't know," White said. "Obviously, he has the chance to prove himself innocent before being called guilty. But if it's true, super disappointing."
White expressed sympathy for Cormier, who could end up without an opponent after a tough training camp.
"This is devastating for Daniel Cormier," White said. "Not only mentally and physically, he just went through a camp, and financially, this pay-per-view is trending to be massive, and he shares in that revenue. He's devastated."
Despite losing a main event of this magnitude, White say he stands by the UFC's decision to stick with the implement USADA's independent drug testing program.
"No, this is the way it should be," White said. "We have the best program in all of sports and this is how it should be."
This is the third time in four attempts to match up Jones and Cormier that the bout has fallen out. They were originally scheduled to meet at UFC 178, but Jones pulled out due to a leg injury. They were rescheduled for UFC 182, which Jones won via unanimous decision.
Jones was stripped of the title following an April, 2015 hit-and-run incident in Albuquerque, N.M., and Cormier won the vacant title in his absence. When Jones was reinstated this spring, he was scheduled to meet Cormier for the title at UFC 197; this time, Cormier had to pull out due to a shin injury. Jones instead defeated Ovince Saint Preux and the bout was rescheduled for UFC 200.
White wouldn't comment on whether he'll make a fifth attempt at the fight, particularly Jones could face a long suspension due to the USADA violation.
"I don't know, we have to see how everything goes down," White said. "Jones might get two years for this, you know? We'll see."