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Jon Jones being booted from UFC 200 sucks, but the big picture came into focus

It speaks volumes that Jon Jones’ crisis management expert, Denise White, showed up to an impromptu press conference steeped in fresh crisis and greeted the media with, "I’m sure you all know who I am…"  We do. We shouldn’t. We certainly don’t want to. But we do…and man, there’s just so much wrong with that picture. What the hell’s going on out there in Vegas ahead of UFC 200?

Jones was emotionally distraught in explaining his way through the June 16 USADA test that got him booted from Saturday night’s main event with Daniel Cormier. When he spoke, he'd had only about 12 hours to process the news. It was a supplement that he took, something he couldn’t even pronounce. He would never intentionally cheat, he said, and God has a plan for everybody. There were tears, and apologies — to Dana White, to the UFC, to Daniel Cormier. Somewhere along the way it dawned on Jones that his press conference was actually therapeutic. He seemed to be gathering his own inner-strength as the questions rolled in. That old Jones defiance was already replenishing itself. There were notes of sympathy in the air, especially when journalist Chael Sonnen clicked on the lights in the absurdist theater by tossing out a question. By the end, Jones was a pillar of his own resolve.

And then off he went.

Back to Albuquerque.

Back to the old drawing board.

Back to make his comeback’s comeback.

Jones' agent, Malki Kawa, said that a B sample was taken on Wednesday night, and that he was hoping for those results back as soon as Thursday night, right as the UFC kicks off it’s mega three-card weekend. It didn't seem to come back that fast.

How apt all of this all seems, gathered around, as we are, a colossal celebration of sequential pay-per-view events. What are we celebrating exactly? All those times, the UFC enticed our disposable income into its pockets. And when a headliner gets plucked off the card, like Jones did, sometimes you’ve got to just stand back and admire this ol’ sport for its audacity. And for its ever-predictable unpredictability.

As we hit the hallmark number of 200, we should expect crazy things to happen. Fights are just well-publicized theoreticals until the fighters make the walk. We’ve seen it a million times. The narrative on any given morning doesn’t necessarily fit the narrative at the close of day. Even Bruce Buffer found this out when he injured himself lip-syncing this past week attempting a small jump while performing. Fate’s a funny thing in the fight game.

After the news broke of Jones being taken off the card, people were volunteering to step in and fight Cormier, who was devastated at what was going on. Here was a man locked into a huge prizefight with his arch nemesis — with coveted pay-per-view points attached to his purse — and just like that his world gets turned upside down. There’s rolling with the punches, and then there are gut punches. Cormier was three days from resolution. We all were.

It all changed. Luckily, by Thursday night, the UFC was able to find a last-second replacement in Anderson Silva — arguably the greatest pound-for-pound fighter in UFC history. He's 41 years old now and hasn't won officially since 2012. But he's a brand name that's instantly compelling to plug into the situation.

Of course, all of this is a reminder that so much of the turmoil in fighting has nothing to do with the literal letting loose of hands. It has to do with making it into that damn cage. We are fools and fools again when we take anything for granted in MMA.

But the principle behind what happened with Jon Jones  — and what happened with Lyoto Machida recently — is really the thing that stands out. When the UFC hired a third-party arbiter (USADA) to conduct out-of-competition tests with its entire roster of athletes, you knew a storm was coming. UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta forewarned that things would get worse before they got better. His admission at that moment: That people were cheating, and they were going to get caught. In essence, the UFC has been paying an outfit to help them aim a gun at its own foot. The UFC didn’t want to lose its main event. The UFC also put itself in a position to lose every main event on the schedule.

Which is exactly where we're at in this young sport’s progression. If UFC 200 is a celebration of everything that makes the UFC great, this part has to be included. And to enact change, there will be casualties. For a minute there those casualties were Cormier, the fans, and those three letters. Once again, the UFC figured out a solution in Silva. As for Jones, who expressed remorse in his press conference, he’s a casualty, too. He’ll get his due process, but right now he’s the kind that got caught. It might not be a single fight that just went away, but another chunk of his career.

It’s why his crisis-management expert felt compelled to speak on his behalf, and, as if the irony was lost on her, presume that everyone knew exactly who she was.

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