Jon Jones, not for the first time, doesn’t understand where Cormier is coming from.
“Defend the belt that was never his?” Jones asked at Friday’s UFC 232 press conference in New York. “I don’t understand how that works.”
Cormier’s path to becoming just the second simultaneous two-weight-class champion in UFC history, alongside Conor McGregor, is inextricably intertwined with Jones’ career path. Jones won their first bout via unanimous decision in Jan. 2015. Five months later, Cormier became light heavyweight champion by defeating Anthony Johnson at UFC 187 for the vacant belt after Jones was stripped due to his legal issues.
Jones then defeated Cormier via head kick at UFC 214 in Anaheim to regain the championship, only to have the decision overturned and the belt returned to Cormier after Jones failed a pre-fight drug test.
The former champion now returns next month at UFC 232, where he’ll headline against Alexander Gustafsson in a rematch of one of MMA’s all-time great fights in a bout being billed for the vacant light heavyweight title.
So with that in mind, Jones isn’t in the mood to humor the notion that the light heavyweight belt is Cormier’s to defend.
“If Daniel Cormier wants to come back down to light heavyweight, he’ll challenge one of the contenders for my belt,” Jones said. “There’s no reason to grant him a fight. He got knocked out the last time we fought.”
Cormier, while holding the light heavyweight belt, went on to knock out Stipe Miocic and claim heavyweight gold at UFC 226. There has been speculation that a matchup between Jones and Cormier at 265 pounds would put a fresh spin on MMA’s most heated rivalry. But Jones, while not outright dismissing the idea, doesn’t sound too enthused about the notion of a rematch at a new weight class.
“I would fight DC at heavyweight, but I feel like I have nothing to prove,” Jones said. “I’ve beaten him twice, and I feel like fighting him at heavyweight is putting all the cards in his favor. I have nothing to prove against Daniel Cormier. I always say that a lot of this fighting is not personal to me. My goal is to be great, it’s not about individual rivals. So me challenging Daniel Cormier would be making it a personal thing.”
Jones finished by attempting to portray his disinterest in another Cormier fight as an act of mercy.
“If he had beat me, then I could see me challenging him, but I’ve done enough to that guy,” Jones said. “I’m going to let him breathe easily and enjoy some of his stuff.”