With the one-year USADA suspension of Jon Jones nearing an end, the future of the UFC light heavyweight division appears to be growing clearer.
First, reigning champion Daniel Cormier will seek to defend his 205-pound strap in an April 8 rematch against Anthony Johnson at UFC 210. After that, UFC president Dana White has already suggested that the next title shot will likely go to Jones, the longtime kingpin of the division whose suspension reaches an end in July.
The rivalry between Cormier and Jones is one of MMA’s most fieriest, and nobody was burned more than Cormier when Jones’ USADA failure sank their championship rematch — and career-changing paydays — in the days before UFC 200. But even despite everything that has happened over the past few years, Cormier said he won’t object if Jones ends up being the next title challenger at light heavyweight.
“Sure, whatever, I’d like to fight Jon Jones. That’s what I’ve been trying to do since 2015,” Cormier explained recently on The MMA Hour. “It’s been years, that’s all I’ve been wanting to do is get another opportunity to fight him. So yeah, sure, if you want to give him a title shot, go ahead. That’s fine. I think that, as long as that man has his affairs in order, he’ll be good to go.
“It’s just very hard — it’s just scary, at the end of the day. All that stuff is scary, as I’m pretty sure it’s scary to ‘Rumble’ to schedule to fight me because of the injuries. So for me, it’s just a little bit scary. Jon and I have been scheduled to fight like four times, and we’ve only fought once.”
The history between Cormier and Jones is rather extensive, to say the least.
The two were first slated to settle their grudge match in Sept. 2014, however an injury to Jones pushed the fight back to Jan. 2015 at UFC 182, with Jones ultimately capturing a unanimous decision victory over Cormier — a performance that still stands today as Cormier’s only career loss. The UFC then went on to strip Jones of his title and suspend him following his infamous hit-and-run accident in mid-2015, and Cormier took up the mantle of UFC light heavyweight champion in his rival’s stead.
A year later, with Jones finally returning to action, a scheduled rematch at UFC 197 once again met a delay, this time due to a foot injury suffered by Cormier. The pairing was quickly re-booked for UFC 200, only for Jones’ failed drug test for two banned substances — clomiphene, an anti-estrogenic substance, and letrozole, an aromatase inhibitor — to blow up the bout less than three days out from fight night.
Following the UFC 200 incident, White stated that he “would never take the risk of headlining a show with Jon Jones again.” But the UFC nowadays is in dire need of big ticket fights, and with Johnson remaining as the only person standing in the way of the Cormier-Jones rematch, Cormier isn’t confident that White will be able to stand by his word.
“We’d all have to all have some discussions,” Cormier said. “I’m not going to fight Jones just on some card. It would have to be a certain type of card if we were going to take a co-main event type of role. But therein lies another issue. I’ll put it out there: Jon and I will not fight in the co-main event to anyone but Conor McGregor. Right? That’s the only way that makes sense, right? So there’s the problem. Now you have a whole bunch of guys who make a whole bunch of money on one fight card. So it’s like, what’re you going to do?”
At 37 years old, Cormier is aware that his time in the sport may be nearing its final chapters. So while he has many accolades to call his own, Cormier also isn’t afraid to acknowledge that his road will inevitably always lead back to Jones, at least until the moment arrives that he can avenge his only career loss.
“It always has been,” Cormier said. “I said after I lost to him the first time and we were supposed to fight in , I said give me the two toughest guys the division has to offer. At that time it was (Alexander) Gustafsson and ‘Rumble.’ I’ll beat them so that I can get back to this guy. I did it in a year, and I was ready to fight in April. Then I got the injury and everything that happened in July didn’t offer us the (chance to) fight, so I fought Anderson (Silva). I’m like, just get me back to where I need to be inside the Octagon against Jones. That’s really what it all leads to.
“And the truth is, now it’s about my legacy too. Title defenses, wins with being the champion, that all matters to me. So, it’s all part of the journey, but at the end of the day, I do want to get back to Jones.”