It has been a very, very long wait for some hard news about the status of Jon Jones. The former UFC light-heavyweight champion was suspended after his victory over long time rival Daniel Cormier in July 2017, and it took 14 months for USADA to decide on a suitable punishment.
With this being Jones’ second doping violation, coming off the back of his first suspension, it was widely expected that he would receive the maximum 4 year sentence. However as time moved on and no news was heard (other than a suspension handed down by the California State Athletic Commission), fans and experts alike were forced to wait for the result. On September 18th 2018 it was announced that Jones would be suspended for 15 months retroactively from 28th July 2017, plus three months community service. This means that he will be eligible to return to competition on 28th October 2018.
There had been a lot of rumbling in the past few months that Jones may be returning in time for the end of 2018, just in time to headline UFC 230, or one of the year-end events in December. While UFC President Dana White has already announced that he doesn’t expect Jon Jones to return until early 2019.
“Beginning of next year,” White told ESPN’s ‘Get Up’ show when asked about Jones’ return.
“He’s been off for awhile. I think he’s a little heavy right now and he needs to start cutting weight and getting back into shape and we should see him early next year.”
However White has often contradicted his own statements, one of the most recent coming just before the announcement of Khabib vs McGregor. Less than an hour before the promotional package for the bout was played White told reporters that the deal was still being negotiated, and was not yet complete. But it is looking increasingly unlikely that we’re going to see Jones this year, and almost definitely not at UFC 230.
Jon Jones vs DC III? Jones vs Gustafsson II?
Perhaps the biggest question fans have currently is who will ‘Bones’ be fighting when he returns? As ever the biggest fight that could be made would be Jones vs Cormier for a third time, whether it is for the Light Heavyweight or Heavyweight title, it is a fight that fans around the world would love to see. Yet now Cormier stands atop the mountain that Jones himself had once claimed he would conquer, a simultaneous two division champion, for the first time in their careers Jones needs Cormier, more than Cormier needs Jones.
There is much more risk than reward to Cormier when it comes to a fight against Jones, with his career winding down, a loss to Jones for a third time would potentially ruin the reputation and the status that he has built up for himself in the past 12 months. Alternatively a win over his long term nemesis could provide the vindication and solidification for him as the greatest Light Heavyweight of all time.
Another fight that fans are clamouring for is a rematch between Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson, after their instant classic at UFC 165 in September 2013. Both fighters have been in and out of the octagon in the past 5 years, with Jones only fighting twice in that time, Gustafsson only fighting five times.
Who would u fight if not me champ @jonnybones ?! That’s the only fight that makes sense right now! Why wait let’s do it.. let me beat u one more time 💃 @ Allstars Training Center https://t.co/tPa0QRmYzu— Alexander Gustafsson (@AlexTheMauler) September 22, 2018
Gustafsson has reached out to Jon Jones on social media a number of times in the last week pushing for the fight, and it’s entirely plausible that a bout between the two could be for an interim title, as DC is still lining up a fight with Brock Lesnar for the heavyweight title. Regaining the title would mark Jones’ third reign atop the 205 pound division, despite the fact he has never lost the title in the octagon.
Congratulations @jonnybones I’m really glad u are back! @dc_mma is aiming for Brock.. so let’s give the fans another legendary fight for the belt 👊🏻 @ufc @danawhite @ Allstars Training… https://t.co/bVhqjxZmLG— Alexander Gustafsson (@AlexTheMauler) September 20, 2018
Could we see a fight between Jones and Gustafsson before the end of the year? It would certainly be big enough to headline a card in December, and UFC fans around the world would surely be tuning in to see the two foes do battle once more.
After waiting 14 months to hear the outcome of his doping violation charge with USADA, hopefully we won’t have to wait too much longer to see Bones back in the octagon.