Jon Jones’s relationship with the UFC has rarely been easy in the past half-decade. The light heavyweight phenom took the promotion by storm in 2008, running up a 9-1 UFC record in his first three years (and change) with the promotion - capturing a championship belt in the process. He seemed set to be a boon to the sport for years to come.
Trouble first started rearing its head in 2012. Jones crashed his car into a light pole in May of that year and eventually ended up pleading guilty to a DUI. But, UFC 151 in September was where his rocky relationship with the promotion really started. After stacking a lackluster card beneath Jon Jones vs. Dan Henderson, the UFC was left scrambling when Hendo pulled out of the bout at the last minute. When Jones refused a last second bout with Chael Sonnen instead, Dana White cancelled the card and laid the mess firmly at Jones’ feet.
Over the next three years, that relationship would get slowly rebuilt. Jones went through hard fought contests against Alexander Gustafsson and Daniel Cormier, holding his place fast as one of the sport’s most dominant and marketable athletes. But, if 2012 had been a rough patch, few things could have prepared the UFC for 2015. Jones tested positive (in a poorly administered out of competition drug test) for cocaine. Only a few months later he would turn himself into police for his involvement in a hit & run accident, eventually pleading guilty to charges and receiving 18 months probation.
“Bones” returned to competition a year later, in April of 2016, picking up a lackluster decision over Ovince St. Preux and an interim light heavyweight - having been stripped of the undisputed championship the previous year. After a planned bout between Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz fell apart for the UFC’s bicentennial event, a rematch between Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier, to unify the light heavyweight title, was put atop UFC 200 instead.
Then Jon Jones failed a drug test, for real this time, and not for cocaine. The result was his removal from the card just days before fight night. As Dana White recently revealed in an interview on ESPN, he hasn’t spoken to Jones since (transcript via MMA Fighting).
“Jon Jones and I still haven’t talked since the last time he pulled out of UFC 200,” White said. “But he’s getting the opportunity right now to come back and face Daniel Cormier, without a doubt two of the best light heavyweights ever, both of these guys.
“I wasn’t happy with him and what happened with him falling out of UFC 200,” White explained. “I feel like we’ve been there for the guy every time he’s had a problem, and for him to do that at UFC 200, I was just... I was not happy. But we don’t have to talk for him to come back and do what he’s going to try to do on Saturday night, we don’t have to talk. I’m not mad at him anymore like I was before, but we’ll see how this thing plays out. I mean, if he doesn’t show up for this one, that’s going be whole other ball game, but I’m cool with Jon Jones right now.”
Maybe, if Jones can beat Cormier again on July 29th and regain the UFC light heavyweight belt, it will be time for he and White to sit down and get back on speaking terms. But, at the moment, fans, the UFC, and White just have to hope that everyone makes it to fight night in good condition and free from suspension.