Jones returns to cage today for title bout with Cormier
ANAHEIM, Calif. — Jon Jones insists Daniel Cormier isn’t his rival, not even when their rematch is the most anticipated mixed martial arts fight of the year.
Jones says he doesn’t even dislike Cormier, who has spent most of the past 2 1/2 years holding the Ultimate Fighting Championship light-heavyweight 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 today in the main event of UFC 214, the 30-year-old will 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.”
The fight 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.
He reached the pinnacle of his sport by defeating Cormier in 2015 to defend the UFC 205-pound title. Practically nothing has gone right since then for Jones, whose capacity for self-sabotage surpassed even his incredible MMA talent.
The UFC has stripped Jones of its title two times — after a hit-and-run accident in which he broke a pregnant woman’s arm, and after he was revealed to have failed a doping test four days before a scheduled bout with Cormier last July.
That doping test led to a yearlong suspension — today’s bout marks Jones’ return.
“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 trashtalking and physical drama, and they got into an brawl in a Las Vegas casino lobby in 2014 during promotion of the first bout.
They traded 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.’ ”
Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones, shown during their 2015 fight, will meet again today in the UFC 214 main event.
Jon Jones kicks Ovince Saint Preux during their interim light heavyweight title fight in April 2016. It was Jones’ last UFC fight before a one-year suspension in July.