After an extremely impressive 13-second knockout of Glover Teixeira at UFC 202, all things line up for Anthony “Rumble” Johnson to take on light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier in a title fight. A fight between Johnson and Cormier seems to be the easy choice for both men, but it doesn’t seem as easy for UFC President Dana White. White, speaking on the UFC Unfiltered podcast with Matt Serra and Jim Norton, said he is considering lining up Johnson to fight Jon Jones, who is currently under a temporary suspension from the USADA.
White said the fight between Johnson and Jones would be a title eliminator with the winner getting the chance to face Cormier. Many may believe that this is an unfair situation for Johnson, who has proved that he deserves a title fight, but for the UFC and all three fighters in this conversation, a fight between Jones and Rumble might be the best possible situation.
Currently, Johnson is on a three-fight winning streak with all three victories coming in a combined two minutes and seven seconds of Octagon time. Meanwhile, Jones hasn’t fought since winning a unanimous decision against Ovince St. Preux at UFC 197. Jones was scheduled to fight Cormier at UFC 200, but he was pulled from the card just a few days before the fight after failing a drug test.
Since then, Jones has gone through the appeal process with the USADA and will also face possible punishment from the Nevada State Athletic Commission, but that process has seemed to go in favor of Jones. White told UFC Unfiltered that Jones has “13 lives” and things are looking up for him in regards to a return to the Octagon sooner than later.
So, why does the fight make sense?
Here’s the set-up: UFC 205. Jones and Rumble at Madison Square Garden in New York City. No, it won’t be the main event, but for the first UFC card at MSG, it’s a must-have. Jones has defeated Cormier, Jones was stripped of his belt due to drug and legal issues, and Cormier defeated Johnson for the belt that Jones relinquished. What we don’t have in the history between these three is a fight between Jones and Johnson, although they were scheduled to fight at UFC 187 before Jones was stripped of his title.
If the UFC can bring back one of its biggest stars and put him in his home state of New York with a shot at the belt on the line, why wouldn’t the company pull the trigger on this fight? It may seem like a reward for Jones, when many don’t believe he deserves one, but it could easily be a reward for Rumble as well.
We’ve seen two of the UFC’s biggest superstars, Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey, take a loss over the last year. The hype their losses have created was unreal for the organization. Now imagine Rumble stepping into the Octagon fresh off a 13-second knockout against the No. 2 light heavyweight contender and facing Jones in the former champ’s backyard.
Rumble’s hands are some of the most powerful in the sport, and if he was to deliver an upset over Jones, then the hype is built up even more for a title fight against Cormier. Then, the one man to defeat Jones would go up against Jones’ biggest rival in what would be a must-watch pay-per-view title fight. If things were to go down in this fashion, it would also create more hype around the always loved “comeback” story for Jones, something he’s no stranger to.
For Jones, a win over Johnson would not only mean one of the most anticipated rematches in the UFC against Cormier would happen, but it also means that Jones would have finally cleaned out the light heavyweight division and defeated everyone the UFC has put in front of him.
It may not seem fair for Rumble to have to take on Jones, but if Jones is cleared and returns from his suspension in time for UFC 205, it would make all three fighters and the company a ton of money, while building plenty of hype for the next light heavyweight title fight.