How Jon Jones' suspected doping could turn out to be a positive for UFC

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LAS VEGAS – The announcement was as stunning as it was sudden: The United States Anti-Doping Agency on Wednesday flagged an out-of-competition drug test given to Jon Jones on June 16 as a potential violation and, as a result, he was yanked from his fight with Daniel Cormier at UFC 200.

The news was devastating to the sport’s fans, and losing one of the most anticipated fights in the main event of the biggest card in the sport’s history to a drug test cast a pall over the party atmosphere surrounding this week.

But as hard as it is to take, it’s a good thing.

Jones, of course, hasn’t been proven guilty of anything yet, and there is an appeals process in place that could clear him when all the facts are known and analyzed.

But performance-enhancing drugs simply have to be drummed out of combat sports. Not to sound melodramatic, but it’s essentially life and death. Fighters take a risk every time they compete, whether it is boxing or MMA, but the risk goes up dramatically whenever they face an opponent who is artificially enhanced.

Yanking Jones-Cormier at this stage is going to cost the UFC hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars in lost pay-per-view sales as well as marketing costs.

UFC president Dana White said his advertising and marketing team would be up all night changing the promotions and signage that featured Jones and Cormier.

Jon Jones looks on while he defends his title against Daniel Cormier at UFC 182. (Getty)
Jon Jones looks on while defending the title against Daniel Cormier at UFC 182. (Getty)

It was hard not to feel for Cormier, who not only lost a major payday that could exceed $1 million, but lost what might be his last opportunity to avenge the most galling defeat of his career.

Cormier has been through plenty in his life, including the loss of a child in 2003 when his infant daughter, Kaedyn, was killed in an auto accident.

When a person has been through something like that, he/she is pretty much immune to anything else.

But Cormier had several near-misses during his collegiate wrestling career and failed to win a national championship. He was a two-time Olympian and in 2008 was the captain of the team. But he failed to make weight and didn’t get the chance to compete.

About 18 months ago, Cormier sat at the same dais in the same room where he spoke on Wednesday. He was in tears after his loss to Jones at UFC 182.

Cormier handled himself with dignity and class and didn’t blast Jones, but he cut to the core of the issue.

Even though it cost him big-time on Wednesday, Cormier stood by USADA. Coming from him, it was a powerful statement that could have a long-term, wide-ranging impact.

“I’m not a guy who likes to pile onto somebody,” a downcast Cormier said, slowly, as he discussed Jones’ alleged failure. “It doesn’t really matter who it is. USADA changes a lot of things. They are a great organization and are going to clean up our sport. … The UFC did this [hiring USADA] and they didn’t have to. They decided to clean up the sport.”

It was long overdue. It was not long after UFC 182 when UFC chairman Lorenzo Fertitta and president Dana White held a news conference at the Red Rock Resort to announce they’d contracted with USADA and would implement Olympic-style drug testing in the UFC.

Jones tested positive for cocaine in a random test given to him in December 2014. But because recreational drugs are only banned within 24 hours of competition, he was permitted to fight. At UFC 183 later in the month, both main eventers, Nick Diaz and Anderson Silva, failed drug tests.

Things were out of control and it was obvious that few fighters were being deterred by the flimsy state athletic commission testing that was going on.

The UFC went from being a joke in the drug-testing realm to one of the leaders in all of sports overnight after contracting with USADA.

Fighters are apt to be tested 24/7/365, whether in competition or out. And that meant, as Fertitta said so presciently at the news conference last year to announce the deal, things would get worse before they get better.

No favorites are played; everyone, from stars like Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor and Jones, to first-timers are tested the same.

Jones’ alleged failure should prove that to all but the most hard-core conspiracy theorists. His removal just eliminated the most anticipated fight from the biggest card the UFC had ever put together.

For fight fans, it’s a shot to the gut.

It sucks. There is no other way to put it.

But for the long-term betterment of the sport, this was desperately needed.

So while July 6, 2016, will be remembered by many as a dark day in UFC history, those who truly understand the significance of this in the bigger picture will remember it as a day that set the sport on the right path.

If it can happen to Jon Jones at UFC 200, it can happen to anyone at any time.

There is only one answer: Quit cheating. For all of the fighters who still look for that extra edge, quit embarrassing yourself, quit admitting your weakness, quit bringing dishonor to your sport.

Stop using performance-enhancing drugs.

If you don’t, sooner or later, you’ll get caught.