It looks like Jon Jones will return to competition soon, and when he does, it will be for the title he never lost.
The former UFC light heavyweight champion, who was stripped of his belt and suspended last year after his arrest for felony hit-and-run, will likely have an immediate opportunity to earn back his championship against Daniel Cormier, the current champ and Jones' bitter rival.
“We expect to have an announcement in the next couple of days here,” said Dave Sholler, the UFC's vice president of public relations, when discussing the bout Saturday following UFC on Fox 18 in Newark, N.J., according to MMA Junkie. “Things are shaking out, and I think you guys are going to be pleased with the outcome."
Jones' last opponent was also Cormier. That was January 2015, and Jones (21-1) defeated Cormier (17-1) by unanimous decision to retain his light heavyweight title. Not long after, though, Jones was suspended, and Cormier defeated Anthony Johnson by submission to claim the vacated belt. Cormier also defeated Alexander Gustafsson by split decision in October to defend the belt.
The UFC lifted its suspension of Jones in October and has been working to line up his return bout ever since. Though Jones-Cormier 2 has been widely suspected, this is the most concrete evidence to date that the rematch will indeed be Jones' first fight post-suspension.
There has been a good deal of public (and, one assumes, private) posturing between the two around the terms and conditions of a potential rematch.
There was at one time speculation that the rematch might headline a blockbuster April card at New York's Madison Square Garden, though that speculation was scuttled when a federal judge denied the UFC's request to hold an event in New York, where professional MMA is illegal. Either way, Cormier expressed a reluctance to fight Jones in the Empire State, given that Jones is a native of upstate New York and as such would likely benefit from a friendly crowd there.
In any case, based on Sholler's comments Saturday, it seems the two sides have reached or are nearing an agreement and that a rematch announcement is imminent. UFC officials did not mention any potential date or location for such a bout.