NEW YORK — If Jon Jones defeats Alexander Gustafsson in their Dec. 29 rematch for the soon-to-be vacant UFC light heavyweight championship, don’t expect him to be looking for a third fight with Daniel Cormier anytime soon. Or ever again.
Jones (22-1, 1 NC) reiterated his stance Friday at a UFC 232 press conference at the Theater at Madison Square Garden, just one day before Cormier (21-1, 1 NC) defends his heavyweight championship against Derrick Lewis at UFC 230. After being told about Cormier’s recent comments that, should he lose his heavyweight title on Saturday, he would return to defending his 205-pound crown (rather than being stripped ahead of Jones-Gustafsson II), the 31-year-old Jones could only laugh.
“There’s no reason to grant him a fight,” Jones said. “He got knocked out the last time we fought.”
Jones hasn’t fought since his third-round TKO of Cormier in their July 2017 rematch was reversed to a no contest after Jones failed his second drug test in as many years. Despite facing a USADA suspension expected to be 2-4 years as a repeat offender, Jones recently saw his punishment reduced to 15 months as he was cleared to return. An independent arbitrator ruled Jones did not knowingly take the banned steroid Turinabol.
The Jones-Cormier rivalry is considered by many to be the greatest in UFC history due to the genuine contempt each fighter holds for one another. Jones, who won their first meeting by decision in 2015, was also asked whether he would be open to a third fight against Cormier at heavyweight.
“I would fight DC at heavyweight, but I feel like I have nothing to prove,” Jones said. “I have beaten him twice and I feel like fighting him at heavyweight is putting all the cards in his favor. I have nothing to prove to Daniel Cormier. I always say that a lot of my fighting is not personal. My goals are to be great, and it’s not just about individual rivals.
“Me challenging Daniel Cormier would be making it a personal thing. If he had beaten me, I could see me challenging him, but I feel like I have done enough for my legacy.”
During Cormier’s scrum at Thursday’s UFC 230 media day, the two-division champion said an elusive victory over Jones is no longer a must-have for his legacy thanks to his heavyweight championship win over Stipe Miocic in July.
“[Jones] beat me; the guy beat me. But it doesn’t make me feel like I have to go and chase him anymore,” Cormier said. “I’ve done something to the point where he doesn’t dictate my path anymore. And the fact that I went up to heavyweight as a light heavyweight champ and won the belt — it does feel good.
“And for a long time, that’s what people thought he would do. He was light heavyweight champ for four years and never really went up to fight the heavyweight champion. I did it after three years.”
Jones, who joins Cormier on the short list of MMA fighters in consideration to be the greatest of all time, went on to share an entertaining back-and-forth with Gustafsson ahead of their rematch. Jones defeated him by decision in their 2013 bout that is often referred to as the greatest title fight in UFC history, and Jones’ attempt Friday to blame the close-action fight on his lack of preparation and recreational drug use caused the mild-mannered Gustafsson to interrupt him.
“Excuses, only excuses!” said Gustafsson, a native of Sweden. “I’ll kick your ass and beat you again.”
“I have a question for you, Alex: If my excuse was that I didn’t train hard enough, what’s your excuse for losing?” Jones said.
The colorful exchange continued when Gustafsson, who lost a similarly exciting split decision to Cormier in their 2015 title bout, was asked which opponent was a more difficult challenge.
“[Jones] is the tougher opponent, but that makes the whole thing much more funner for me,” said Gustafsson, who admitted he showed Jones too much respect in their first fight.
After Jones countered by asking whether Gutafsson (18-4) thought he was also ripped off against Cormier, the repeated answer he received in return was, “I lost, but I will beat you.” That’s when Jones decided to go back to the offensive.
“What about Anthony Johnson? Did you beat him?” Jones said as the crowd began to roar with approval in his favor. “What about Phil Davis? Did you beat him, too? I’m just trying to get a psychological evaluation.”
After Jones promised a knockout in their rematch, the 31-year-old Gustafsson closed with one final warning.
“I’m going to show the world he’s beatable [and that] he bleeds like everyone else,” Gustafsson said.