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Dana White won’t softball Jon Jones on return: ‘Go in and try to get your belt back’

This time around, when Jon Jones returns to the Octagon, it sounds like it won’t be for a non-title fight.

Interim UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones Press Conference Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

It’s coming up on 9 years since the debut of Jon Jones in the UFC. And a relationship that once seemed like a license to print money has become decidedly rocky.

That’s nothing to do with Jones’ performances in the cage. The former UFC light heavyweight champion has still yet to take more than a DQ loss. But, his life outside the cage keeps putting the breaks on his career. While trouble may have first reared it’s head with a DUI back in 2012, Jones has since found himself on the wrong side of everything from cancelled events to a hit-and-run to testing positive for cocaine. And of course, most recently, a failed USADA drug test for clomiphene.

That last incident saw Jones yanked from the headlining spot of UFC 200 and suspended for a year. It also produced assurances from Dana White that Jones was done headlining events for the promotion.

But, Jones’ relationship with the UFC is nothing if not complicated. And in a recent interview with the UFC Unfiltered podcast, White revealed that when Jones makes his return to competition this summer, it will probably be for another shot at the UFC light heavyweight title (transcript via MMA Fighting).

“Jon Jones is supposed to return around July so the timing is perfect. I haven’t talked to him. I have not talked to Jon Jones since the whole incident [at UFC 200]. Depending on where Jon’s head is and where he thinks he is, I would assume he would come right back and try to get his title back,” White said.
“The problem with this sport, there is no light one. If you’re going to go in there and give it, at least go in and try to get your belt back. It’s like everyone was saying Ronda should have had a tune up [fight]. There are no tune-up fights. When you break into the top five in the world, everybody’s nasty. Everybody’s nasty. What you don’t want to do is lose to somebody [ranked] 8, 9, 10. It knocks you right out of the top 10 and it doesn’t make sense.”

Not to be discounted in White’s MMA math here is the new UFC ownership. WME-IMG are in a difficult position for the coming year with a greater need for star attractions than ever. Jon Jones’ latest PPV headliner at UFC 197 may have delivered less than spectacular results, but he’s still one of the UFC’s few proven draws. And no matter if Daniel Cormier or Anthony Johnson holds the title come July, both are bouts that should drive a fair bit of fan interest.

Can Jon Jones still be a big star for the UFC? Maybe, maybe not. But, it looks like the promotion will give him at least one more shot at claiming the role that had once seemed undeniably his.