Things went so well last Saturday night for the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
They had a big, highly anticipated fight that should be a commercial success. The rest of the UFC 182 card was mostly forgettable, but Jones vs. Cormier delivered in spades. It gave us the opportunity to see the best fighter in the world doing his thing against a tough challenger. Everybody was on cloud nine.
After the fight, I exchanged text messages with UFC president Dana White, who told me "It was MASSIVE. It broke records for us."
Everybody smiled and exchanged high fives.
And then the wheels fell off the whole thing.
The best fighter in the world once again couldn't get out of his own way. This time around, Jon Jones tested positive for cocaine metabolites. He entered a rehab facility. As someone who has struggled with addictions in my own life, I can do nothing but wish him good luck and hope that he gets the help he's seeking, if he is indeed serious about getting help.
So Jones is gone for the moment. In his absence, we're finding out a lot more details about this story, and none of it is reflecting well on the UFC.
White went on Fox Sports 1 on Wednesday night and admitted that he'd learned about Jones' failed drug before the fight, before Jones stepped in the cage to face Cormier. But despite that, White said there was no consideration given to canceling the fight.
"No. 1, he was healthy. No. 2, the reason you would stop the fight and the hammer would drop on the guy would be if he tested for performance-enhancing drugs," White told Fox Sports Live. "The other thing people have to understand in this situation: Jon Jones was contracted to fight, and everyone thinks we can just say, 'the fight's off, the fight's not happening.' He had the right to fight."
The UFC President also made a curious statement about his concern for Jones' health.
"This is one of those situations where it's so different than if a guy gets busted for performance enhancing drugs," White said. "You worry about the person first. Forget about the fighting and the work side of it and you worry about Jon Jones as a person."
Here's where my questions begin.
If White and the UFC were concerned with Jones' health, why allow him to fight? If things were bad enough that Jones needed to go to rehab for a real issue—and not as a public relations stunt—why would you let him go in the Octagon?
The story of Len Bias is an old one, but still relevant. Bias was selected as the second overall pick of the NBA draft on June 17, 1986. He died two days later from a cocaine overdose. This is not to say that Jones has consumed dangerous amounts of cocaine, because we do not know his usage level. The point is this: If White and company are concerned with Jones' health today, why weren't they concerned enough to cancel the fight when they learned about the failed drug test?
We know the answer to that. Jones vs. Cormier was a big fight. It was big on pay per view and likely generated millions for the UFC and for the state of Nevada. Canceling the fight would mean losing out on all of that money. Because of the loopholes concerning out of competition vs. in competition, they weren't required by law to cancel it. It was probably an easy decision to make.
White also said on Fox Sports Live that Jones had the "right to fight," which, I'm not even sure what that means. Is he trying to tell us that if this had occurred to a preliminary card fighter, the fight would be allowed to continue?
I am skeptical, but I am also not a lawyer. I don't know if Jones would've been able to secure an injunction that allowed him to fight, as Yahoo's Kevin Iole wrote in a story on Wednesday afternoon:
However, the UFC doesn't appear to have had the ability to pull Jones from the bout. Given that Jones did not violate any rules, he had a signed contract and was ready, willing, able and eager to fight. Had the UFC attempted to yank him from the card, Jones could easily have sought an injunction to permit him to fight, and he would have had a strong case.
Iole might be right. But I have a feeling that if the UFC wanted to cancel the fight, they could have done so. But they didn't want to because doing so would have cost them millions. And I guess White probably can't come out and tell us the fight was canceled because they didn't want to lose money. But I'd almost rather be told nothing at all than to have White go on television and tell us a bunch of stuff that is clearly designed to spin the story.
This story isn't over. We're still waiting on Jones' post-fight drug test results to come back. NSAC director Bob Bennett told the Los Angeles Times that punishment is on the table, which means they could come down hard on Jones despite his December 4 test happening out of competition. And Jones' test results from the December 4 and December 18 tests show abnormal hormone levels, which may end up being a different (and bigger) story entirely.
In the meantime, what I'd like is a little more honesty from all involved. Jones is in rehab and won't be speaking for himself for a while. It's imperative that those who will be speaking for him—and those who represent the UFC in a public forum—tell the whole truth, because this is a story that could severely tarnish the reputations of Jones and everyone involved.
All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.