An arbitrator issued a 15-month sentence to light heavyweight star Jon Jones in his U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) case, MMA Fighting's Marc Raimondi reported Wednesday.
The suspension is retroactive to July 28, 2017, so the ruling allows Jones to return to the Octagon as early as Oct. 28.
ESPN.com's Ariel Helwani shared a statement from USADA about the arbitrator's decision:
"The independent arbitrator found that Jon Jones was not intentionally cheating in this case, and while we thought 18 months was the appropriate sanction given the other circumstances of the case, we respect the arbitrator's decision and believe that justice was served," USADA CEO Travis Tygart said in the statement.
Helwani also shared Jones' Instagram post following the announcement:
"It’s difficult to express myself at this moment but I can definitely say my heart is filled with gratitude and appreciation," Jones said. " I want to thank all of you who have stood by me during the toughest stretch of my life. It has meant the world to me and always will."
UFC 230 is scheduled for Nov. 3 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, but it's unclear whether the UFC will add Jones to that card or wait for a later date.
Jones last fought in July 2017, knocking out Daniel Cormier in the main event of UFC 214. The bout was subsequently ruled a no-contest after USADA flagged a drug sample from Jones that was collected during a pre-fight weigh-in.
USADA confirmed in September 2017 that both Jones' "A" and "B" samples had tested positive for Turinabol, a banned substance. That same month, UFC stripped him of the light heavyweight championship and named Cormier the champion.
While the arbitrator had yet to hand down its official ruling, the California State Athletic Commission revoked Jones' mixed martial arts license in February, all but effectively putting his career on hold.
Because he had run afoul of USADA's rules before, Jones faced a suspension of up to four years, which could have seriously derailed the 31-year-old career. That outcome was never very likely, but Jones clearly avoided what could have been a far more serious punishment.
It's hard to figure who is happier with the arbitrator's decision: Jones or the UFC.
Despite the fact he has fought just three times since 2014, Jones remains one of the most recognizable names in the UFC at a time when the company isn't exactly churning out homegrown stars.
According to Tapology, UFC 214 had pay-per-view 860,000 buys, the second-highest of 2017. MMA Fighting's Dave Meltzer reported the projections had fallen between 550,000 and 700,000 buys, so the event far exceeded expectations.
UFC already has Conor McGregor's return fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov set for UFC 229 on Oct. 6. A bout between Cormier and Brock Lesnar hasn't yet been confirmed but is seemingly imminent after Lesnar confronted Cormier in the Octagon at UFC 226 in July.
Add Jones to the mix and UFC will have three of its biggest fighters back in the fold in the near future.