Having been caught doping for the second time in his career, Jones faced a huge four-year maximum sanction but in USADA's words “based on Jones’s delivery of substantial assistance” during the investigation, Jones will serve a fifteen month backdated ban and would in theory be able to compete as early as UFC 230.
This puts the UFC as well as Jones in an odd spot. Within the space of a couple of months they have two hugely popular – but also hugely controversial champions returning after a lengthy hiatus.
Jon Jones and Irish superstar Conor McGregor are names they badly need, but also names that do reflect badly on the UFC brand what with the level of indulgence they’re afforded.
For McGregor at least however, the label of bad-boy is one he wears proudly, and parlays with huge success into his relentless self-promotion.
Jones is a little more conflicted, and presents Dana White with a couple of problems. Firstly, he’s seemingly always battling between playing the villain and appearing as the good guy. He’s the man with a bible verse tattooed on his chest, but torqued Brazilian Glover Texiera’s elbow in a nasty move that many found distasteful and damaged Teixera’s joint.
He will surely have to commit to the heel persona now – firstly, it played well when he was sniping back and forth with Cormier. And secondly, a good-guy angle will hardly work after two cheating suspensions, various out of the cage incidents including driving under the influence, and now having informed on fellow drug purveyors to get a reduced sentence.
The last point is a controversial one of course, MMA is a sport best served clean but the circumstances in which he gave up the information to lessen his own sentence may rankle with fans and fellow fighters.
A move up to heavyweight quite probably happens too. Not only did Jones clean out his division at light-heavyweight, but his great rival Daniel Cormier now reigns supreme at the top of the big-man heap.
In fact Cormier has stolen a march on Jones he has never quite managed to achieve inside the cage after Jones beat Cormier, he made a bold move in calling out American man mountain and UFC heavyweight superstar Brock Lesnar.
It was a smart play but after his heavyweight title win, Cormier did exactly the same and secured the Lesnar fight for himself.
However, there are many new faces for Jones to face off against and be challenged by at heavyweight, unlike at light-heavy. However the next chapter of Jones’ career progresses, you can bet your last penny it won’t be boring – he may be hard to like but he is a deeply compelling fighter. As long as he doesn’t try to play the good guy...