Jon Jones has spent most of the last seven months consumed with thoughts of beating Daniel Cormier again and winning back the Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight title.
He had to adjust his mindset for the last three weeks when he learned Cormier would be out of their UFC 197 bout on Saturday night and Jones would instead face Ovince Saint Preux at the MGM Grand Garden. But it didn’t take Jones long to direct his attention right back to Cormier.
As Jones left the cage following a unanimous decision victory over Saint Preux, he looked over at Cormier, who was doing commentary on the broadcast, and flipped him off.
“Yeah, I gave Daniel the finger leaving the octagon,” Jones said with a smile. “It felt great to do. It creates buzz. It gets people ready for the fight. He’s been in my sights this whole time. We had a bump in the road and had to take a little detour and now it’s back to this beef with ‘DC.’ There wasn’t much emotion involved in it. It was more for the fans and to get that beef restarted.”
Jones claimed the interim belt with the win on Saturday, but Cormier is the UFC light heavyweight champion. Jones had held that title since 2011 until he was stripped of the belt after he was charged in a hit-and-run accident in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in April 2015. Cormier won the belt by beating Anthony Johnson in May.
Before Saturday, Jones had last competed in January 2015 when he beat Cormier by unanimous decision. They are fierce rivals who were famously involved in a brawl in the lobby of the MGM Grand following a news conference in 2014.
Now it looks like they will fight again this summer, likely in the main event of UFC 200 at T-Mobile Arena on July 9. Cormier has an appointment scheduled Monday to see if he can get cleared to resume training. Jones was seen in a wheelchair after his fight Saturday night, but said he just had swollen feet and shins and wasn’t injured.
So the path is cleared for them to renew their bitter rivalry. Cormier signed off from his broadcast with a message for Jones.
“I’m going to see the doctor Monday, and if they say Daniel Cormier is OK to compete in 11 weeks at UFC 200, I’ll be there,” Cormier said. “I’ll be there with my championship belt, with my red wraps on my gloves as I come out second and you wait for me to walk to the octagon.
“Don’t bring that interim belt. You leave that at home. That’s garbage. That’s a play belt. They got that thing from the kiosk upstairs before they gave that to you in the middle of the octagon. Leave that thing at home, Jon. Come chase this real title, and get beat, and I’ll ship you back to Albuquerque.”
The mockery of the interim title isn’t likely to get to Jones as he appears to have a similar opinion. In fact, he refused to have it strapped around his waist in the cage.
“It’s cool and all. It’s nice and shiny,” he said at the news conference. “But I look at myself as a true champion and I lost the belt. I’m on a journey to get it back. This belt here makes me feel good. I took some pictures with it. But there’s no real satisfaction, no real touchdown moment like, ‘We made it guys.’ We’re still on a mission. This thing is kind of made up. It’s kinda fake.”
While Jones won all five rounds on Saturday night and was never really challenged, it wasn’t the type of performance that might put fear into Cormier. Jones said it was more a matter of a late switch of opponent than any type of ring rust.
Jones has always been a big proponent of obsessively preparing for a particular opponent and he said his entire camp was geared to beating Cormier, a shorter and stockier Olympic wrestler. Instead, he fought a big athletic former football player who was essentially just hunting for a knockout.
Jones said it made him cautious.
“A part of me was just like, ‘You’ve got to fight DC, Jon.’ The goal is to get back to ‘DC,’ ” Jones said. “I’m not making excuses, but that was part of the thought process. Don’t lose an opportunity to fight ‘DC’ by getting in there haymaking with this guy that has the ability to knock people out from different angles.”
Mission accomplished. Jones got the win and will get his wish of fighting Cormier for the title.
As for those who believe his performance Saturday may not have been good enough to accomplish that goal, Jones scoffs.
“I would have beat him up pretty good,” he said. “I am tuned up to be fighting him. All my techniques, the angles, the ideas, I’ve been working for him for over seven months.
“I feel like I’ve gotten significantly better and you guys will see that when I fight ‘DC.’ I feel like I’m going to pick him apart. I feel I’m going to beat him up really, really bad. I’ve gotten a lot better.”
He should get a chance to prove it very soon.