Jon Jones again made UFC history on Wednesday, but this time for all the wrong reasons.
Following the notification of a potential U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) violation this past month, and the subsequent confirmation of a banned substance in his B-sample test this week, Jones has been stripped of the UFC Light Heavyweight championship he won from Daniel Cormier at UFC 214 in July.
It marks a record-setting third time Jones has been stripped of a UFC title belt (all since April 2015), and as a result his biggest rival Cormier retakes the throne as the organization's 205-pound champ.
Jones won the title from Cormier with a third-round knockout in UFC 214's headliner. He tested positive for the steroid turinabol in a sample taken one night before the July 29 event, and once the B-sample confirmed the presence of the substance in his system, UFC officials opted to strip him of the gold and return it to Cormier's possession.
"Dana White called me today and said if it’s a no contest, then the fight didn’t happen and because of that, the championship is getting returned to me," Cormier said on FS1's "UFC Tonight," where he serves as a weekly host. "If he cheated, he could not have fought and won the fight. Financially, it's a big difference if I don't fight as the champion as opposed to fighting for the vacant title. I'm taking the belt. He disqualified himself before the fight. So it didn’t happen, and I get the belt back, which is the right thing to do."
Once Jones' B-sample confirmed the initial results, the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC), which sanctioned the event at Honda Center in Anaheim, California, overturned Jones' victory to a no-contest. The CSAC has no authority over how the UFC administers its belts, but according to Cormier's statement, UFC President Dana White decided it was only right to reinstate him as champion.
Although the B-sample represents a condemning piece of evidence on Jones' case, it doesn't fully convict him of wrongdoing. "Bones" will have the opportunity to present his full case at an arbitration hearing with USADA, likely to take place mid-October in Los Angeles.
If proven guilty, though, the 30-year-old Jones could be handed a maximum four-year suspension from competition. He has already has one offense under the USADA program, which occurred prior to a scheduled UFC 200 fight with Cormier in July 2016.
With Jones' future tied up for the foreseeable future regardless of what happens, Cormier will likely defend the UFC belt against an existing contender in his weight class.
And although they have one of the most notorious feuds in MMA history, Cormier appears to be done giving Jones the benefit of the doubt, even if he's able to clear his name.
"You don’t cheat the sport, cheat the fans or me," Cormier said. "Jones, you have all the physical advantages. You're 30 years old. You have an 85-inch reach. I'm 38 years old. I would love to wake up and take stuff so I don’t have to walk down my stairs sideways. But I don't. Once again, this guy has made a mockery of the sport."
Despite his personal feelings, however, Cormier said Jones, who has only pleaded innocence, should do everything in his power to fight the test results given the potential punishment ahead.
"He has to fight this – this is a death sentence," Cormier said. "If this does what it says it can be, it’s a death sentence."