The UFC has stripped Jon Jones of its light heavyweight title.
The move comes less than three days after Albuquerque police say Jones crashed his rental into a pregnant woman’s car and fled the scene on foot but long before Bones received a hearing in court. The cops also say they found small amounts of marijuana in the cage fighter’s car but his charges, at this point, stem from the hit-and-run.
Jones, 21-1 with his only loss coming from a questionable disqualification in a dominating performance, reigned as the promotion’s light heavyweight champion for the last four years, defeating the likes of Rashad Evans, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Lyoto Machida, Daniel Cormier, and Alexander Gustafsson. The UFC still lists Jones as the king of its pound-for-pound rankings and some consider him, even at 27, as the greatest mixed-martial artist in the brief history of the sport.
But Jones, arrested for drunk driving in 2012, courted controversy in recent months. He brawled with Cormier at a press conference, and then claimed he lost a sponsorship deal with Nike because of it when the Nevada State Athletic Commission sought to punish him. Breitbart Sports revealed this as a lie when it questioned Jones on the matter in December. “The truth of the matter is I did not get dropped by Nike,” Jones responded to the Breitbart Sports question. “It was a mutual thing, something that we had discussed months before the actual fight.” Days later, the UFC affirmed that Jones popped positive for cocaine in an out-of-competition drug test. He entered rehab, but dropped out after a day.
Daniel Cormier takes the spot of the man who vanquished him in a hard-fought, five-round battle in January during next month’s UFC 187. The powerful wrestler faces off with the explosive striker Anthony “Rumble” Johnson for the now-vacant 205-pound title. The stacked card also features a middleweight title bout between Chris Weidman and Vitor Belfort and fan-favorite Donald Cerrone taking on Khabib Nurmagomedov for the chance to fight Rafael Dos Anjos for the lightweight strap.
Though the card still shines despite the departure of its marquee name, the light-heavyweight title may not. Losing the belt without actually losing makes Jones the champion in the eyes of most fans. The UFC may suffer through a “pope/anti-pope” period for as long as Jones remains away from the octagon. The alternative for the UFC may have been to promote a cage-fighting champion preoccupied with a fight to stay out of a cage.