Former UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones was handed a 15-month suspension on Wednesday night, meaning he could be back in the Octagon as early as November.
The punishment announced by the US Anti-Doping Agency means Jones could be in line for a spectacular return at UFC 230 as the event scheduled for Madison Square gardens on November 3 has yet to announce its main event.
Jones, 31, had faced up to a four-year ban after testing positive for turinabol following his second fight against current champion Daniel Cormier at UFC 214.
It’s difficult to express myself at this moment but I can definitely say my heart is filled with gratitude and appreciation. I want to thank all of you who have stood by me during the toughest stretch of my life.
— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) September 20, 2018
His license was revoked by the California State Athletic Commission following the test and he received a big fine, while the UFC stripped him of the title that he won via knockout.
The USADA’s decision is a big win for the former champion, who had earlier served a one-year suspension after testing positive for performance enhancers ahead of a canceled bout with Cormier at UFC 200 in July 2016.
Before the hearing the USADA said the suspension had been reduced by 30 months because of Jones’ “substantial assistance”.
USADA CEO Travis T. Tygart said in a statement that: “The independent arbitrator found that Jon Jones was not intentionally cheating in this case, and while we thought 18 months was the appropriate sanction given the other circumstances of the case, we respect the arbitrator’s decision and believe that justice was served.”
Jones’ suspension is back-dated to the day the offending sample was collected on July 28 last year, meaning he is clear to fight again on October 28.
Speculation has already begun that Jones will now headline at UFC 230, although UFC President Dana White has said he will return sometime next year.
Reacting to the news, current champion Daniel Cormier, who has lost both his fights to Jones, said: “I’m the UFC double champion.”
“I have bosses in the back and I’m talking about this guy because I have to. I’ve moved past that. I went about my business. I went and won another title. This guy, I guess now his suspension’s up. So we’ll see what happens.”
Cormier said he immediate priority was an upcoming defence of his belts against former UFC champion Brock Lesnar.
“I think people get excited, people get excited about the prospect of us fighting again, but I’ve got a fight with Brock Lesnar,” Cormier said. “Why would I look back? Why would I look back to Jones now when I’ve got a fight?
“Obviously, as a competitor I want to fight the guy. He’s beaten me twice. But I’ve got a fight. Why go back? This is a bigger fight. I’ve got a bigger fight with Brock Lesnar. Why should I go back?”