The UFC rolled into its biggest fight week of the year firing on all cylinders. On Wednesday night, they blew a piston.
Interim UFC light heavyweight champion and UFC 200 main eventer Jon Jones was pulled from the biggest fight card of the year due to a potential anti-doping violation. The potential violation stems from a June 16 out-of-competition sample collection. The specific substance involved in the possible violation hasn’t been revealed.
At this point, the process has yet to fully play out, as Jones has the right to challenge the result and have a second sample tested to verify or contradict the original sample’s result. That, however, takes time, and won’t come to a conclusion soon enough to save his fight with Daniel Cormier.
White said he had yet to speak with Jones or his manager, Malki Kawa, as the news was too fresh. The UFC quickly called a press conference to announce the news before speaking to Jones.
“The way that this process works is the Nevada State Athletic Commission is old first, then we are told, and then they notify the fighters,” said White at the press conference. “Obviously, he’s got the chance to prove himself innocent before being called guilty, but if it’s true, obviously, it’s super, super disappointing.”
Although the UFC made a quick move to slot Lesnar vs. Hunt in as the new UFC 200 main event and still has two title fights on the card, White felt bad for Cormier, who stands to lose a lot of money if he doesn’t fight on Saturday night, especially considering he and Jones were supposed to be the main event.
“This is devastating to Daniel Cormier mentally and physically — he just went through a camp – and financially. This pay-per-view is trending to be massive, and he shares in that revenue, so it’s devastating to him in every way it could possibly be,” said White.
The UFC president said that he held out a sliver of hope to try and keep Cormier on the card. It will be no easy task. Even if a fighter steps up to take the fight, they have to get all the necessary clearances to fight in Nevada, which is complicated by the extremely short amount of time left to accomplish the feat.
“(UFC matchmaker) Joe Silva is in the air right now, so he doesn’t know. I will talk to him when he lands, and maybe somebody wants to pop up and fight Cormier last minute,” said White. “Stranger things have happened, so we’ll see what happens. I would like for that to happen for Cormier.”
The UFC probably won’t feel the fallout from it as much as Cormier, relatively speaking. The fight card was stacked from top to bottom. Of course, it is a hit, but one the company can absorb with Lesnar’s late addition to the card, women’s bantamweight champ Miesha Tate putting her title on the line against Amanda Nunes, and Jose Aldo battling Frankie Edgar for the interim featherweight championship.
“Listen, when you have the biggest, baddest fight card ever assembled, it doesn’t sting as bad when you lose a fight, but it stings real bad for Daniel Cormier,” White concluded. “This is devastating to him, his family, and I’d like to make a fight if I can.”