Does Jon Jones’ impending return cast a shadow over UFC 192’s main event? Why or why not? Given the hit and run case was resolved within five months, did the UFC overreact in stripping Jones of the title?
RICH HANSEN, MMATORCH COLUMNIST
The shadow that looms over the UFC light heavyweight division is there now, it has been there since Jon Jones was stripped of his title, and it will remain there until he fights to regain the championship (or, dios mio, until he loses a non-title fight if he takes a non-title fight in his return). That’s undeniable. There’s nothing Daniel Cormier could have done upon beating Anthony Johnson in May to remove or even lessen the pall that hangs over the division. That said, there’s a slight break in the clouds over yonder, and the shadows are actually starting to dissipate now that we know that Jon Jones is going to avoid prison time (assuming he keeps his nose clean. Get it? If Cokey McSnorterson keeps his nose clean? Too subtle?). Anyhoooo, Either Cormier or Gustafsson are going to be able to call out Jones on Saturday night, and not in a futile Alistair-Overeem-Calling-Out-Brock-Lesnar kind of way. There’s a real, tangible end game in the division now, and that should be a welcome development for all fight fans*.
* – Except for fans of the winner of Saturday night’s main event, of course. That man is going to go down, and go down hard.
FRANK HYDEN, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Hell yeah they overreacted in stripping him. I said that at the time, along with many, many others. It was ridiculous at the time, and it looks even dumber now. It casts a shadow, no doubt. Primarily because the two men competing for the UFC Light Heavyweight Title have both lost to Jon Jones. With Gustafsson it was a really close decision loss, but Cormier got dominated and controlled in his loss to Jones. The timing of this plea deal is also casting a shadow over this fight, but you do what you can to mitigate that. The UFC has to acknowledge it and get out in front of this story. If they plan to have Jones fight the winner, they need to announce it now. Jones will cast a shadow on this fight regardless of whether or not the UFC acknowledges him, so they should try to make it part of the story of the fight and use it to hype the return of Jones.
BRAD WALKER, MMATORCH COLUMNIST
First let me say that it doesn’t cast a shadow but it creates intrigue. Can a returning yet dishonored Jones return in invincible form and defeat either Gustafsson or Cormier for a second time? Or will his mind be elsewhere? He’s dug a hell of a hole for himself, now we have to see if he’s capable of climbing back into the good graces of UFC the fans and his peers, so I don’t think there’s a shadow but there’s definitely a level of excitement to seeing him return. And I think stripping him of the title was absolutely the right thing to do. It’s not about how long he was out, it’s about the fact that he swore after the cocaine incident that he was going to get on the right path and make better choices only to show us he was still making bad choices; he inflicted undue harm on a pregnant woman and ran away from his accident much the same way he’s run away from his problems in the past. I wouldn’t want the belt on him, it would be a nightmare if he did something else stupid in that span that made UFC look silly for not taking it off of hi;, even if it was precautionary it was the right move.
MICHAEL BANE, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
It doesn’t cast a shadow any bigger than was already there. Everyone in the world, other than Daniel Cormier, knows that the Light Heavyweight Title that DC holds doesn’t mean much until he beats Jones or Jones just quits the sport for good. It might as well be an interim title, useful for promotion and keeping the division moving along in a somewhat organized manner, but not usually indicative of who the best fighter is. UFC 192’s main event is an interesting fight that I’m looking forward to watching. My mindset of its significance isn’t any different with the knowledge that the Jones situation is resolved sooner rather than later.
Overreaction? We’re talking about endangering two human lives here with irresponsible behavior. This is a much more important thing than our mere entertainment. What if Jones had made the woman lose the baby, or killed them both? Thankfully, those things did not happen, but we were incredibly close to those scenarios playing out. Stripping Jones of his title was not about MMA. It was about punishing Jones, and making a statement that those types of actions, people, and behavior are not acceptable. Jones is going to learn a very hard lesson here. He’s not just taking an extended break from fighting, going to “rehab” again, or paying some money before everything returns to the status quo. His shot at Silva’s consecutive title defense record is likely gone. It was an important goal of his, and it’s going to be a pretty sullen moment for him when Demetrious Johnson breaks it and he doesn’t. Horrible, deplorable, despicable actions should have consequences that matter.
I understand why this is a question. But a step back and the perspective of what we’re really dealing with makes the answer easy. If I fired an employee for this type of behavior, no one likely bats an eye. It’s only because millions of people happen to know who Jon Jones is and what his punishment was that we’re even debating it. Jones is a very lucky individual. He’s athletically blessed, has a lot of money, and has the opportunity to do great things. He’s lucky that what he did hasn’t permanently ruined his life or the lives of that woman and her family. The UFC took a strong stance on their view and treatment of what he did, and it was the right one. The fact that it may be (completely is) inconsistent with how they’ve previously handled things doesn’t make what they did any less right. Hopefully Jones takes notice, learns from what he did, and grows up.
[Jon Jones art by Grant Gould (c) MMATorch.com]