It was widely speculated it’d only a matter of time before the information would be released, but former UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones is back, the promotion announced Friday.
The decision comes weeks after Jones, who pleaded guilty to a felony hit-and-run that occurred in April, was sentenced to 18 months probation — pacifying any added concerns of potential jail time for the former pound-for-pound king.
UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta said in the statement:
“We’ve made it clear to Jon that this new opportunity to compete in UFC is a privilege and not a right, and that there are significant expectations we have regarding his conduct moving forward. We’re happy to read and see reports that he has embraced the terms of his plea agreement and is using this experience to grow and develop as a person.”
As part of his plea agreement, Jones must conduct 72 community service appearances — something he’s been doing frequently of late, based on his Instagram profile.
The hit and run was only the second major concern Jones had created for the UFC. The former champion tested positive for cocaine metabolites leading up to his fight with Daniel Cormier at UFC 182 — a substance the Nevada Athletic Commission inexplicably tested for, and only revealed after he’d already competed. He was later fined $25,000 by the UFC and entered a drug rehabilitation center for one day.
Having been stripped of his light heavyweight title and suspended indefinitely from the UFC in April, the 28-year-old Jones understands what impact his return may have on his career.
“I am grateful for the opportunity to resume my career and I am excited to show how much I’ve grown as a person outside of the octagon,” Jones wrote on his Facebook page. “It took me losing almost everything I had worked for to realize how much I had. I am blessed and humbled by the continued support of the MMA community and I can’t thank my fans enough for their unwavering support through my ups and downs. This marks the beginning of a new chapter in my life and my career and let me assure you, the best is yet to come.”
Jones last fought in January, defeating rival Daniel Cormier in a five-round unanimous decision at UFC 182. It was the eighth straight title defense for the reigning light heavyweight champion. Months later, Jones was scheduled to defend his title for the ninth time — one shy of ex-middleweight champion Anderson Silva’s all-time UFC record of 10 — against Anthony “Rumble” Johnson at UFC 187 in May, but was forced to withdraw and vacate the title due to his legal battles, effectively ending his title-defense streak at eight.
In stepped Jones’ most recent victim to claim the vacant title, as Cormier defeated “Rumble” via third-round submission. Cormier would go on to defend his title for the first time against former title challenger Alexander Gustafsson in a back-and-forth main event at UFC 192 in Houston.
The reinstatement all but guarantees a rematch between the former dance partners, who’ve since continued their rivalry outside of the cage through social media.
Take as much time as you want, the fire inside of me won't be dying down anytime soon. #AndStill
— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) October 20, 2015
— Daniel Cormier (@dc_mma) October 20, 2015
There’s no word on when Jones will return, but UFC President Dana White has gone on record to claim Jones would be receiving an immediate title shot upon his return. “DC” has no problem facing Jones again; in fact, he welcomes the idea. But he’d like to take a relatively extended break from the sport — an understandable desire considering he’s faced the top three 205-pound fighters in a matter of 10 months.
Often seen posting videos of himself working out and becoming a larger, stronger version of the unstoppable monster that reigned supreme over the once-vaunted light heavyweight division, Jones might not have a problem with allowing the champion to wait.