The most divisive star in the history of the UFC, Jon Jones, has been cleared to make his return to the octagon after a lengthy period of uncertainty.
The news that the former light-heavyweight champion Jones would be returning was a surprise to some, but in truth, the controversial superstar had been slowly planting seeds of doubt in the minds of those who believed that his most recent mess-up would be the most damaging to his legacy.
Jon’s Twitter has been awash with messages of positivity in recent months – even in the face of what seemed to be a potentially career-ending ordeal.
Now, though, regardless of how you feel about the rather convenient nature of the 15-month suspension that he received, there must be some degree of curiosity about what exactly he will do next.
UFC 230 still needs a headliner and with Jones cleared to fight from Oct 28 onwards, would it be a stretch to imagine the New Yorker headlining a hometown blockbuster?
For now, let’s assume that this will be the case. Why else would the promotion decline to reveal the night’s headlining contest just over nine weeks out from the date?
I see only two options for Jones. Sure, I could imagine him in a ‘tune-up’ against a lower-ranked opponent but knowing the UFC as we do, they’ll surely be looking to cash in big time and end the year strong – especially after the underwhelming PPV numbers we’ve seen thus far.
A rematch with Alexander Gustafsson could happen.
The pair engaged in one of the greatest showdowns of all-time back in 2013. When you think about it, it’s actually crazy how much has happened in the time since for both guys.
Gustafsson managed to overturn a patchy run of form with a fantastic fifth-round KO victory over Glover Teixeira in May of 2017. Despite not having fought since then, many would argue that the Swede is coming into his prime and given the absolutely scintillating nature of their first meeting, I’d say that this would be a solid candidate for Jon’s comeback fight.
The manner in which Gustafsson withdrew from his scheduled showdown with Volkan Oezdemir also raised a few eyebrows so don’t be surprised if this is one that has been cooking for quite some time now.
The other option for Jones is obviously Daniel Cormier.
I know DC has claimed that he isn’t willing to give Jon an immediate title-shot at either light-heavyweight or heavyweight but do not be fooled, he is the type of competitor who would kill for another shot to right one of the most glaring wrongs in his back catalogue.
As the reigning champion over the two most historically prestigous divisions in the sport, the narrative is certainly there for a third helping – despite the fact that Jon came out on top twice (despite what the records say).
I do think that the most likely scenario here is that he faces Gus, whether that be at UFC 230 or after and in the meantime, Cormier builds up his own star-power by taking on – and likely beating – Brock Lesnar.
If Jones wins, the pair will then collide for what would surely be the biggest fight in the history of the sport in terms of significance – and only one man will leave with the undisputed title of G.O.A.T.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena