Jon Jones, Daniel Cormier re­match head­lines out­stand­ing UFC 214 card

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Jon Jones in­sists Daniel Cormier isn’t his ri­val, not even when their re­match at UFC 214 is the most an­tic­i­pated mixed mar­tial arts fight of the year.

Jones says he doesn’t even dis­like Cormier, the man who has spent most of the past 2 1/2 years hold­ing the light heavy­weight ti­tle belt that Jones con­sid­ers right­fully his. Every­thing about Jones’ be­hav­ior sug­gests he might have stronger feel­ings than he ac­knowl­edges. When they fi­nally hit the Honda Cen­ter cage on Satur­day night, he’ll have a chance to show how he re­ally feels.

“A guy like Daniel, he has my full, un­di­vided at­ten­tion,” Jones said this week. “He says that he’s in my head, and that’s ex­actly where I want him to be, be­cause he is in my head. I think about him all the time. That’s what makes me do the things I do.” Jones and Cormier are head­lin­ing the UFC’s best show of the sum­mer, and likely the en­tire year, in Orange County.

UFC 214 fea­tures three ti­tle fights and nu­mer­ous ris­ing stars. Be­fore Jones and Cormier, wel­ter­weight cham­pion Ty­ron Wood­ley takes on Brazil­ian jiu-jitsu mas­ter Demian Maia in a com­pelling clash of styles, and pound-for-pound women’s su­per­star Cris “Cy­borg” Justino faces In­victa cham­pion Tonya Evinger for the va­cant feath­er­weight ti­tle.

But the re­mark­able main event could be the cul­mi­na­tion of Cormier’s ca­reer or a mon­u­men­tal re­turn for Jones, whose ca­reer and life have been se­verely frac­tured since their first bout. “It’s pretty cool that it ends here,” Jones said re­cently, speak­ing of both his dis­putes with Cormier and his own wind­ing path back to the top. “There will be no grudge match. There will be no tril­ogy. Like I say all the time, Daniel Cormier is not my ri­val. I have no is­sue with him.”

Jones’ big­gest is­sues have al­ways been with him­self. Jones reached the pin­na­cle of his sport when he soundly de­feated Cormier in Jan­uary 2015 to de­fend his UFC 205-pound ti­tle. Prac­ti­cally noth­ing has gone right in the en­su­ing 2 1/2 years for Jones, whose ca­pac­ity for self-sab­o­tage and lousy de­ci­sion-mak­ing sur­passed even his in­cred­i­ble MMA tal­ent.

The UFC stripped Jones of its ti­tle twice af­ter a hit-and-run ac­ci­dent in which he broke a preg­nant woman’s arm, and again af­ter he was re­vealed to have failed a dop­ing test four days be­fore fight­ing Cormier at UFC 200 last July.

Jones’ year­long sus­pen­sion has ended, and the UFC put him right back in a ti­tle shot with Cormier, who du­ti­fully de­fended the belt dur­ing the mer­cu­rial ex-cham­pion’s ab­sence. Cormier, an ex-Olympian and fam­ily man who also works as a tele­vi­sion com­men­ta­tor, sees ev­ery flaw in Jones’ makeup.

“He’s a guy who can’t stop hurt­ing him­self and peo­ple around him,” Cormier said. “He’s a tal­ented ath­lete, but mixed mar­tial arts aren’t just about the best ath­lete. He’s weak men­tally. He’s got prob­lems, and I don’t know if he solved them yet.”

Jones plays it cool when talk­ing about Cormier, yet their pro­mo­tional stare­downs have usu­ally de­volved into trash-talk­ing and phys­i­cal drama. They got into an in­fa­mous brawl in a Las Vegas casino lobby in 2014 dur­ing the early stages of their pro­mo­tion of the first bout.They ex­changed harsh words again this week in a face­off, but Jones has vowed to be classy af­ter he wins their re­match. “He’s a good dude,” Jones said. “I want the best for him, I re­ally do. I wish he was just man enough to re­al­ize that he’s (in) the wrong era. He just hap­pened to come into the sport, he’s 39 years old, and he’s (fight­ing) a guy who’s in his prime, a guy who’s do­ing every­thing in his power to make sure this is his era. I wish he could just swal­low that and say, ‘I’m the bad­dest (man) out­side Jon Jones, and I can go to sleep with that.’”

The UFC 214 pay-per-view card starts with two ab­so­lute cork­ers: Vet­eran brawlers Rob­bie Lawler and Don­ald “Cow­boy” Cer­rone meet af­ter light heavy­weight prospects Jimi Manuwa and Volkan Oezdemir. Even the un­der­card is strong, fea­tur­ing fights for Ri­cardo La­mas, Re­nan Barao, Al­ja­main Ster­ling and Brian Ortega. — AP

ANAHEIM: (L-R) Daniel Cormier poses with Jon Jones dur­ing the UFC 214 weigh-in at Honda Cen­ter on Fri­day in Anaheim, Cal­i­for­nia. Cormier is fight­ing Jon Jones in the light heavy­weight ti­tle bout in Anaheim, Cal­i­for­nia. — AFP

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