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Jones still the most relevant fighter in light heavyweight division

Jon Jones speaks with the media during a UFC 197 mixed martial arts news conference, Thursday, April 21, 2016, in Las Vegas. Jones is scheduled to fight Ovince Saint Preux in an interim light heavyweight title bout Saturday in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
(AP Photo/John Locher)

Jon Jones is a bad itch that Daniel Cormier and Anthony Johnson can’t seem to scratch. It’s the kind of itch that sets in deep in the upper-middle portion of the back. It’s the kind that always seems unreachable, no matter how far you stretch or contort your body.

The UFC light heavyweight division has moved past the Jones championship era on the surface. He now resides as the elephant in the room that people pretend isn’t really there. But the slippage and acknowledgment of his existence occurs too often to completely ignore his presence. You can rest assured a Jon Jones question will be asked every single time an interview is conducted with either Cormier or Johnson.

And they usually answer. Their recent response to a question posed by TSN’s Michael Landsberg hit hard enough to draw a response out of the interim light heavyweight champion. Jones has been particularly quiet since he was handed down a temporary suspension by the Nevada Athletic Commission. However, he broke that silence after both Cormier and Johnson deemed him irrelevant as a light heavyweight contender.

“What made him relevant was the fact that he could fight, and he could fight well,” said Cormier. “He’s not fighting anymore. He’s a normal guy that did a lot of things in the past. He’s any other guy that, at this point, is retired because he’s not in the game.”

“When people ask me about Jon, they ask me like, ‘What’s going on with that guy?’” Johnson said. “They don’t ask me about his athletic ability anymore and his greatness inside the cage, they talk about his problems outside the cage. Nobody’s perfect. We’ve all had our problems outside the cage, but his are just amazing.”

Jones was quick to respond through social media with a bevy of Twitter posts.

It’s hard to disagree with Jones where relevance is concerned. He has never been beaten, he has the third most consecutive title defenses in UFC history and he already has a win over Cormier. While his legal and commission drama has kept him sidelined for the most part, he has averaged at least one fight per year in the last three years. So he is fighting.

If recent revelations surrounding his failed drug test prove to be true, Jones could return to the cage sooner rather than later. Let’s not pretend that he has been handed a career death sentence by the commission, and he is no longer competing in the UFC. His fighting career is still very alive and well.

Cormier and Johnson are definitely deserving of respect as the top-two fighters in the division in his temporary absence, but it is because of his relevance that they rarely get it. People want to know where and how Jones fits into the picture. Cormier said it himself leading up to his first fight with Johnson for the light heavyweight title.

“Jon casts such a big shadow on the division so anytime this weight class is discussed there’s going to be some mention of Jon Jones,” said Cormier.

You’re only irrelevant when people stop talking about you.

And people haven’t stopped talking about Jon Jones. He is too polarizing of a figure to simply be forgotten. It would take Cormier avenging the only loss on his resume and Jones pulling a significantly long disappearing act to end his relevance.

Neither has happened yet.

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