Former UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones holds first press conference since one-year suspension
For many MMA fans, Jon “Bones” Jones is still the center of attention.
UFC 210 will be main evented by Daniel Cormier and Anthony Johnson’s fight for the light heavyweight title, but that title was Jones’ one year ago, and he was never beaten for it.
Jones was once the pound-for-pound No 1 ranked fighter in MMA, never being knocked out, submitted, or losing a decision in his 23-fight career. That changed in 2015, when Jones was stripped of the light heavyweight title and given a one-year suspension with community service after being a part of a hit and run incident involving a pregnant woman.
Once Jones returned in 2016, he quickly got back into the title scene and defeated Ovince St. Preux (19-10) at UFC 197 to set up a title fight for UFC 200. He was scheduled for a light heavyweight title fight against current light heavyweight champion Cormier. But days before the fight, Jones received a one year suspension again, this time from the United States Anti Doping Agency [USADA] after testing positive for estrogen blockers.
On Friday, Jones finally broke his silence.
As part of the UFC 210 media events, Jones attended his first press conference Friday at the Keybank Center -- an hour away from his hometown of Rochester -- since being suspended. The event was private to the media where Jones answered a number of questions from his current well being to the fights on Saturday night.
“The time off has been great. I don’t think you really appreciate what you have till you don’t have it anymore,” Jones said.
And while he was able to prove to USADA it was from, in Jones’ words a tainted “dick pill,” and claims estrogen blockers have no positive strength effects, he was still given a one-year suspension for his negligence toward the situation.
“I probably should have taken the rules a lot more seriously and literally had everything tested. I just figured it wasn’t needed because it had nothing to do with sport performance,” Jones said. “I take USADA very seriously now, I send them everything and tell them where I am going to be.”
Jones feels his legacy will remain untainted, even with the recent USADA suspension.
“I have never cheated this sport. Every ounce of my success has been from hard work, dedication, focus and a lot of times grittiness. I’m not worried about it following me forever because I believe that the fans will see what happened in the situation,” Jones said.
Since the suspension, Jones has had many detractors come forward including Cormier, who considers Jones a cheater. The two have been embarked in a bitter rivalry dating back as early as 2012 and had its breaking point at UFC 182 in January 2015, where Jones beat Cormier to retain the light heavyweight title in one of the biggest fights in UFC history.
Cormier has since spoken openly about wanting a rematch with Jones, while also warning him to not step foot in the Octagon with him on Saturday.
“I have no intentions of going in there and harassing the guy. I just want him to enjoy his final moments with the belt,” Jones said.
Cormier himself has fallen under controversy, since the UFC 210 official weigh-ins Friday morning. At the event, Cormier weighed in twice, first weighing 206.2 pounds, .2 pounds over the required weight. But a little over two minutes later, Cormier managed to weigh in at 205 pounds.
Many fighters and analyst have accused Cormier of pushing down onto the towel covering his body at the time to help drop the 1.2 pounds. Cormier has stated that he was just trying to cover his body after he has stripped nude for the second weigh in. But that’s a story Jones is not buying.
“It’s a way clever trick, pretty dishonest of him,” Jones said. “The crazy thing was that it was allowed to happen. I would imagine there would have to be some sort of commision that can go back and see this blatant foul play and address it. No one has addressed it and he has completely gotten away with it.”
Though Jones is not on the card for UFC 210, or allowed to even fight on it, he was still asked to weigh in on Saturday nights main event.
“Do I think [Johnson] beats “DC?” I think he has a very strong chance to do it, a punchers chance. If I were to bet I would probably put my money on Cormier,” Jones said. “You got to have the total package. There are people at a certain level in the sport, “DC” is closer to that level of a perfect game.”
With it looking like Jones will return to take on the winner of Saturday’s main event, Jones took stock of both future possible match ups.
“I really don’t feel like I have unfinished business with Cormier. I think it's obvious that I have unfinished business with Anthony Johnson, we had a number of fights that fell through,” Jones said. “But Cormier, I beat him fair and square. I’m the only guy to ever beat him so if anyone has unfinished business Cormier I feel he has unfinished business with me.”
When Jones makes his return to octagon sometime after July, it will have been well over a year since his last fight. But for now, Jones is enjoying Buffalo and his time away from the Octagon. Jones made it clear he would like to return to Western New York as a fighter sometime in his career, but is enjoying his time as fan of the sport for the weekend.
Jones will be “front and center” for UFC 210 at the KeyBank Center this Saturday. Prelims start at 6:15 p.m. and the main card starts at 10 p.m.
Thomas Zafonte is the assistant sports editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org