This was supposed to be the epic cymbal crash of UFC 200, and as of Wednesday afternoon’s press conference, the rematch between Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier was full steam ahead. By Wednesday night, in a deflating turn of events, it was kablooey. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency popped Jones for testing positive for a banned substance stemming back to a test that had been administered on June 16. Having received the results back only on Wednesday, just three days before the fight and with no time for a secondary test, the UFC had no choice but to pull Jones out of the main event and leave Cormier without an opponent and completely crestfallen at the dais.
UFC president Dana White was dining at StripSteak at the Mandalay Bay when he got the call. Problem child Jones strikes again.
At this point, the sequel to Jones and Cormier feels doomed to never happen. The fight has been booked on four separate occasions, yet they’ve fought only once. They were supposed to fight at UFC 178, and famously brawled in the MGM Grand lobby during a media conference in the buildup to the fight. Then Jones suffered a leg injury in training. That pushed it to UFC 182, when Jones soundly beat Cormier to retain the light heavyweight belt. Getting the rematch done has become the bane of matchmaker Joe Silva’s existence. It was set to happen at UFC 197, but Cormier got hurt beforehand, and was replaced with Ovince Saint Preux. Then it got slotted at UFC 200, the UFC’s great chandelier affair that needed a marquee name.
Jones is wearing the make-believe "interim" belt now only because he was stripped of the actual title after a hit-and-run in Albuquerque in April 2015. Though Jones avoided jail time after pleading guilty and receiving a conditional discharge, he is still on probation from that incident. Before then he’d been in trouble for a DUI in upstate New York (that ended with him crashing his Bentley into a utility pole). He’d gotten into some hot water over a positive cocaine test, which came out after UFC 182. There have been multiple driving violations in the interstices (including one for drag racing), so many that he hired a full-time driver and a crisis-management expert. Leading up to this fight with Cormier, Jones was open with his dirty laundry and embracing newfound sobriety, even using his old partying ways as source material to get at Cormier.
"I beat him [the first time] in the prime of my partying," he joked on Wednesday, as if to say imagine the ass whooping that was in store now that he was clearheaded.
This time it was something from his supplements that did Jones in. He could be facing a two-year suspension from the Nevada State Athletic Commission. When White was asked how this might affect Jones’s probation, he replied simply, "Can’t be good." On Thursday, at his own press conference, Jones said he was flying home to Albuquerque to speak to his probation officer, but that he didn’t anticipate being in violation.
Not exactly the comeback story the UFC was hoping for with Jones, one of the sport’s few true superstars, who has sabotaged himself regularly over the past few years. I can remember not long after he won the title against Mauricio Rua at UFC 128 in 2011 to become the UFC’s youngest ever champion, and the world of mixed martial arts belonged to him. I asked his coach, Greg Jackson, who was out there in the pantheon of light heavyweights that could beat Jones. He said, somewhat confusingly at the time, if there was anybody out there that could beat Jon Jones, it was Jon Jones.
Chuck Mindenhall is a senior writer at MMA Fighting.