UFC 200 seemed almost too good to be true. And as it turns out, it was.
The event’s planned headliner, a light heavyweight title rematch between Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones, has been scrapped just three days before the card after Jones was informed of a potential anti-doping violation stemming from an out-of-competition drug test on June 16. As a result, the heavyweight co-headliner between Brock Lesnar and Mark Hunt will serve as the evening’s co-main event.
UFC President Dana White announced the news on Wednesday evening. At the moment, it is unclear the substance for which Jones tested positive. White said that the promotion would like to find Cormier a short-notice opponent to allow him to remain on the UFC 200 card.
“Stranger things have happened,” White said at an impromptu press conference in Las Vegas.
The news comes on the heels of a tumultuous 2015 for the fighter known as “Bones.” Jones tested positive for cocaine following his victory over Cormier at UFC 182 last year and was fined $25,000 and spent one night at a rehabilitation center in New Mexico. In April 2015, Jones was arrested for fleeing the scene of a hit-and-run accident that left a pregnant woman injured. He was suspended and stripped of his 205-pound belt before being reinstated by the promotion after reaching a plea agreement.
The Jackson-Wink MMA product returned to action at UFC 197 on April 23, where he took a five-round verdict over Ovince St. Preux to claim the interim light heavyweight title. Leading up to that bout, Jones showcased a powerful physique gained from a new powerlifting program implemented during his hiatus. However, Jones claimed to have eliminated heavy lifting from his regimen prior to UFC 200.
Lesnar will have the distinction of headlining the Las Vegas-based organization’s two biggest events, as he also topped the UFC 100 bill, earning a second-round TKO over Frank Mir in July 2009.
The UFC's full statement on the matter is as follows:
The UFC organization was notified tonight that the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) has informed Jon Jones of a potential Anti-Doping Policy violation stemming from an out-of-competition sample collection on June 16, 2016.
USADA, the independent administrator of the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, will handle the results management and appropriate adjudication of this case. It is important to note that, under the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, there is a full fair legal review process that is afforded to all athletes before any sanctions are imposed.
However, because Jones was scheduled to compete against Daniel Cormier this coming Saturday, July 9 in Las Vegas, there is insufficient time for a full review before the scheduled bout and therefore the fight has been removed from the fight card. As a result, the three-round heavyweight bout between Brock Lesnar and Mark Hunt will become the UFC 200 main event.
Consistent with all previous potential anti-doping violations, additional information or UFC statements will be provided at the appropriate time as the process moves forward.