Written by @NickRiznerMMA
I haven’t written an op-ed in a very long time. The podcast has been gaining traction recently, and I’ve focused most of my attention on that side of things. At the end of the day, content is content. That being said, there’s something about the greatest fighter of all time pulling out of the biggest event in UFC history just days before the fight due to a potential anti-doping violation that gets the creative juices flowing.
The purpose of this post is two-fold. In addition to my burning desire to get my thoughts on paper and out into the world, I also want to have somewhere to send people when they wake up to this news. When you cement yourself as ‘the MMA guy’ in a group of friends, you are undoubtedly the person that they turn to when big stories break. This is the reason I’ll have to turn my phone off during a friend’s wedding this Saturday night.
Here’s my take:
First of all, I’m as devastated as the rest of you, but perhaps for a different reason. I was, of course, looking forward to the rematch between Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier. They are, in my opinion, the biggest, most organic rivalry in MMA right now. They also may be the #1 and #2 pound-for-pound fighters in the world. But where and when this fight took place meant very little to me.
This may not be a popular opinion, but I’ve been fairly sour on the idea of UFC 200 ever since they announced Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz as the original main event. That rematch doesn’t really do much for me. I know McGregor is a star, but I’d rather see him defend his belt against Jose Aldo or Frankie Edgar than carry out some personal vendetta in a division where he is not the champ. Plus, something about a non-title fight headlining a storied UFC 200 card didn’t sit right with me.
But alas, the fight was cancelled and a replacement bout between Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier was announced. This fight contains more of the wow-factor I was looking for in a historic main event, but ever since that initial announcement, UFC 200 lost a bit of luster for me. So for that reason, I don’t care that UFC 200 lost it’s main event. There are plenty of intriguing fights on the card, starting with the very first preliminary bout.
If this was another injury and things got pushed back a month or two, I would be upset, but not devastated. I would be able to face it with a scoff and a shrug and move on. But with this situation, the consequences are far more dire. The legacy of two men hang in the balance and the future looks grim for both.
For Jon Jones, it’s a story of tragically self-inflicted wounds. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again here: Jon Jones is the greatest fighter in the history of the sport. Not Anderson Silva. Not Georges St-Pierre. Certainly not Ronda Rousey, who somehow managed to put that idea into many casual fans’ minds, prior to losing to Holly Holm. But Jon Jones. His resume is unparalleled.
He was the youngest champion in UFC history. He is undefeated in 23 fights, 17 of which took place inside the Octagon. Anyone paying attention knows that the Matt Hamill fight was a win. He is only 28 years old; a remarkable stat when you look at all he’s accomplished.
And yet, he’s throwing it all away.
DUIs, hit-and-runs, failed drug tests. Despite all that he’s accomplished inside the cage, he will most likely be remembered as a cautionary tale of a troubled life. Now, before I go further, I would like to say that I understand. I’m not taking some holier-than-thou approach to his transgressions. I can’t say I fully relate to his actions, but I also understand that we have very different lives. Nobody but Jon Jones knows what it’s like to be the best fighter in the world at such a young age. There’s no telling how it would affect you or I or how we would behave under such circumstances. So I am not mad at Jon Jones for his actions. I honestly just feel sorry for him.
But whatever amount of pity I feel for the person at fault, it goes tenfold for the victim in all of this. Daniel Cormier was dealt a heavy blow tonight and not just to his wallet. Think about the emotional toll that he has undergone with the Jon Jones saga. Cormier has one of the best records in the history of the UFC, particularly the heavier weight classes.
He’s undefeated as a heavyweight, knocking off every top contender that was put in his way. Eventually, he dropped down to light heavyweight so he would not have to face his friend, teammate and then-champion Cain Velasquez. He’s since knocked off every light heavyweight contender he’s squared off against, save one:
This rivalry has consumed him for years, amplified by the natural disdain these two have for one another. It is the one blemish on an otherwise perfect record. And it is one that may remain there forever. On multiple occasions, the rematch was scheduled. On multiple occasions, DC could envision the time and the place in which his mistake could be erased. But time and time again, the opportunity was taken away. And this time, it may be for good.
It’s worth noting that an appeal process is looming. We have yet to hear Jones’ side of the story, and if this is all for naught, then this entire op-ed is effectively null and void. However, assuming that Jones tested positive for a PED – as it would appear is the case – he would likely face a minimum two-year suspension from competition. Daniel Cormier is 37 years old. Would a fight with Jones make sense two years from now? Would DC be in his prime? Would Jones be in his prime? Would this rematch even be a possibility at that point?
It is very likely that DC will have to spend the rest of his life looking back on his MMA career with regret. Regret that is entirely beyond his control. As Marc Raimondi pointed out during one of the many reaction videos floating around the internet, this was a crueler result that a loss to Jones. To not even have a chance to compete… that’s the sort of thing that sticks with you. That’s the kind of memory that haunts a competitor for the rest of their days. For DC to suffer such a fate, due to the inconceivable actions of another, is nothing short of tragic. There’s no other word for it, really. Tragic.
The discussion of the new USADA policy and the obstacles that need to be overcome in order to clean up the sport is a large one. It’s far too much to get into now. As a general note, I’m for the stricter testing. And I understand that there are going to be some difficult times along the way. Hopefully, the result of all this is a brighter future for the world of MMA.
But today, the legacies of the two best fighters in the world have been tainted forever. And I feel awful about it.