As he was showered with boos each time he grabbed the microphone to speak, it was evident that Daniel Cormier, not Jon Jones, played the role of heel for the fans in attendance at the UFC’s “Unstoppable” press conference on Friday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
And that reaction hurt a little a bit.
“Guys, that makes a lot of sense. It really does make a lot of sense. Boo me, yes,” Cormier said before answering the first media question addressed to him. “That makes a lot of sense.”
Cormier and Jones will meet in a light heavyweight championship rematch at UFC 197 on April 23. Their rivalry began in earnest with a media day brawl late in 2014 and continued all the way to their bout at UFC 182, which Jones won via unanimous decision.
Troubles abounded for Jones after that victory, beginning with a positive cocaine test in relation to that event. It only got worse when he was arrested for fleeing the scene of a hit-and-run accident in Albuquerque, N.M., in April 2015. As a result of that incident, Jones was stripped of his 205-pound belt and suspended indefinitely. The Jackson-Wink MMA standout avoided a felony conviction by entering a guilty plea in Albuquerque’s Second Judicial District Court. He received 18 months’ probation and was required to make 72 appearances doing charity work and speaking to children. He was reinstated shortly after reaching the plea agreement.
In the interim, Cormier became the new 205-pound king by submitting Anthony Johnson at UFC 187. The American Kickboxing Academy product defended the belt with a hard-fought win over Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 192 this past October.
At Friday’s press conference and in recent months, Jones has espoused the virtues of a life of sobriety. He has also been active on social media sharing a workout program that has him looking to be in arguably the best shape of his UFC career.
However, Cormier has seen and heard a few things that make him doubt his rival’s sincerity. One was Jones’ decision to bring a title belt to the presser even though Cormier is currently the promotion’s undisputed champion.
“It shows how disrespectful [he is] to come out with that belt. It shows that he thinks there are no repercussions for those actions. That’s why he’s up here with that title. If he understood his issues, he would not do that,” Cormier said. “He would respect what he lost because of what happened outside. But there is no change on that young man. He’s doing the same type of s--t. He’s doing the same thing. He will continue.”
Cormier also mentioned an interaction he had with Jones backstage before the press conference began.
“For the record, an hour ago, Jon called me the lamest, biggest p---y he had ever met in his entire life. Believe what you want. But he’s lying to you guys again,” Cormier said.
“I want you to actually be honest with these people as you are with me.”
In that instance, Jones had no problem sharing what he thought of Cormier.
“You are the biggest p---y I’ve ever seen. For sure,” Jones said.
The former titlist then clarified the statement. He said that the competitive part of his life is different than his personal life, which is why he may speak or act differently in those situations.
“When you say you see the old Jon, me calling Daniel a p---y, that’s me as an athlete,” Jones said. “In my personal life I’ve made tremendous changes. People who actually know me would know that. Sobriety is something I haven’t had since I was really young, so I’m really proud of myself for that. And my relationship with my family has gotten better. In every way my life has gotten better. I’ve made major life changes.
“As an athlete yeah, I’ll call Daniel a p---y because I believe he’s a p---y.”
In the eyes of the fans, Jones could do no wrong on Friday, and that assertion drew yet another round of cheers from the throng at the MGM. Maybe it was, as Cormier said, because “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Either way, Cormier isn’t buying the idea of a rehabilitated Jon Jones. He was, however, more than a little disturbed by the negative reaction he received.
“As I address these people in here, I say to you: Guys, I’ve been sober; I haven’t done all these things; I didn’t wreck my vehicle; I haven’t been suspended; I didn’t get stripped of my championship. I didn’t do all those things.
“Guys, these are normal things that adult human beings do. You cheer this guy for saying he’s not going to do these things anymore. I have done this my entire life. But you boo me. Thank you.”