It looks like the light heavyweight division is already preparing for a long term future without Jon Jones. Or at least one athlete is, and he’s claiming that his view is pretty representative of the whole.
UFC top contender Anthony Johnson is getting ready for his upcoming bout with Glover Teixeira at UFC 202, as the co-main event fighting under Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz. In a recent interview with ESPN, Johnson spoke not about Glover, but instead about the man he was supposed to fight back at UFC 187, Jon Jones.
That UFC 187 bout saw Jones stripped of the light heavyweight title and suspended for the first time. Johnson went on to face Daniel Cormier in his place, losing via 3rd round submission and striking out in his first taste of UFC gold. Following Jones’ recent USADA test failure, and subsequent suspension, it sounds like Rumble has given up on the possibility of fighting the light heavyweight GOAT now and forever:
"It's just not gonna happen -- at this point, I know it's not gonna happen," Johnson told ESPN.com. "It is what it is. I'm moving forward. Everybody is moving forward. I'm still shooting high and trying to do what I can in this sport. I'm not focused on Jon anymore. And I can tell you Daniel Cormier, Glover -- they're not focused on Jon, either. Nobody in this division is focused on Jon anymore. That's a fact."
And while Rumble isn’t mad at Jones (he’s just disappointed), it sounds like the biggest factor he sees is a clock that’s ticking. There’s just not enough time in his career to wait around for a Jon Jones fight:
"I ain't trying to fight until I'm 35," Johnson said. "I'm trying to make my money and go on to something different -- do bigger and better things with my life. Hell, I don't want to get punched in the head that damn much. I've got other things I want to do."
Of course there are a whole lot of fighters who have said as much, and five (even ten) years down the road they were still right there, stepping into the cage or the ring or onto the mats. Few walk away as early as they mean to. Will Rumble hang ‘em up in the next two years? Will that mean he’ll never fight Jon Jones? In MMA these things are never that certain.