NEW YORK — When Jon Jones is eligible to return to fighting in July 2017, he might do so as a co-main event or competing somewhere on the undercard, but it's not likely the longest reigning light heavyweight champion in UFC history will fight in the main event.
UFC president Dana White says after all the times Jones has been pulled from cards due to his inability to stay out of trouble outside the Octagon has made him lose faith in the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the sport.
Twice in the past two years Jones has been yanked from main events — once due to a hit-and-run accident where he later plead guilty or UFC 200 this past summer when he was pulled from the show after testing positive for a banned substance.
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White says enough is enough and in his mind, he just can't take a chance by putting Jones in the marquee position at the top of the card for now.
“I would never take the risk of headlining a show with Jon Jones again,” White told Jim Rome in the Siriux XM Town Hall on Thursday. “I'd put him on the card, but I wouldn't headline with him until he can consistently get back on track.
“Millions of dollars are spent on this and for a card to fall apart. How many cards have fallen apart because Jon Jones gets in trouble for something? So no, I am not at that place with him.”
When it comes to talent wasted, White says Jones tops the list for all the time he's missed for personal problems outside of the Octagon.
This latest incident cost Jones a year of his career and that comes on the heels of the hit-and-run accident that kept him sidelined for over a year between 2015 and 2016. Jones also faces the wrath of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, who could suspended him beyond the year long sanction he currently faces from USADA.
“Never. Never in this sport,” White said when asked if Jones has squandered his talent more than any other fighter in history. “I've had my issues in the past with B.J. (Penn), I think B.J. could have been one of the best ever and I've had my issues with B.J. but Jon Jones is by far.”
Sadly, White isn't sure what to expect when Jones returns in 2017 because he's been out of action so long that there's no telling how much time may have cost him when it comes to performance.
At his peak, Jones was the best fighter in the sport and arguably on his way to potentially becoming the greatest champion in UFC history. When he returns, Jones will have competed just two times in 30 months and that kind of layoff isn't healthy for anybody's career.
“The unfortunate part is time off is nobody's friend in this sport,” White said. “You have to stay active. You have to stay busy. I don't know what the reason is that this sport is like that. The more guys fight, your timing is always on, you get better and time off is never anybody's friend in the fight game.”
White says Jones' financial loss is also incredibly high because he's missed out on a lot of marquee opportunities while he's been gone. As a native New Yorker, Jones was once the name at the top of the list of fighters who could potentially headline the first ever UFC card at Madison Square Garden.
Instead, Conor McGregor and Eddie Alvarez will enjoy that honor this weekend.
“These guys, you have a very short window of opportunity. Who knows. He could be fighting at heavyweight right now. He probably lost $15 or $20 million,” White said.
“He's probably the greatest talent we've ever seen in the sport. It's sad to see it go like this.