Jones re­turns to cage to­day for ti­tle bout with Cormier

The Maui News - - SPORTS - By GREG BEACHAM The As­so­ci­ated Press

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.’ ”

AP file photo

Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones, shown dur­ing their 2015 fight, will meet again to­day in the UFC 214 main event.

AP file photo

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.

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