As soon as word began to spread that UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones was wanted by Albuquerque police in connection with a hit-and-run incident, his place atop May’s UFC 187 card seemed tenuous, at best. Sure enough, on Tuesday night, Jones was not only removed from that event, but he was suspended indefinitely and stripped of his title.
Jones faces a felony charge, as Albuquerque authorities allege that he ran a red light on Sunday, hit a car driven by a pregnant woman, breaking her arm, and then fled the scene. Jones turned himself in on Monday and was released on a $2,500 bond, and he had his first court hearing on Tuesday.
UFC president Dana White and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta flew to Albuquerque to meet with Jones, one of the company’s biggest names and widely regarded as the best pound-for-pound MMA fighter in the world. The UFC subsequently released this statement:
“UFC announced that it has suspended Jon Jones indefinitely and stripped him of the light heavyweight title as a result of violations of the organization’s Athlete Code of Conduct Policy. Jones was recently arrested in Albuquerque, N.M. on a felony charge of leaving the scene of an accident involving personal injury. As a result of the charge and other violations of the Athlete Code of Conduct Policy, the organization believes it is best to allow Jones time to focus on his pending legal matters.
“UFC feels strongly that its athletes must uphold certain standards both in and out of the Octagon. While there is disappointment in the recent charges, the organization remains supportive of Jones as he works through the legal process.
“With this decision, UFC has determined that No. 1 contender Anthony Johnson will now fight No. 3 contender Daniel Cormier for the UFC light heavyweight championship at UFC 187 on May 23 in Las Vegas.”
Jones had defeated Cormier in January at UFC 182, a result that was allowed to stand even though it was later revealed that, prior to the fight, Jones had failed a test for trace elements of cocaine. Albuquerque officers reported finding marijuana when they searched his car on Sunday.
Cormier had been scheduled to fight at a UFC event in June, but the company’s third-ranked light heavyweight contender agreed to take on Johnson, the No. 1 contender, on short notice for a shot at the crown.
“When you have a guy like Jon Jones who has defended his title as many times as he has, and for us to have to go in and strip him of his title and suspend him it’s not fun, but you know what they say — the show goes on,” White told Fox Sports. “Anthony Johnson is ready for this fight and Daniel Cormier was beyond pumped to get this opportunity.”
The 27-year-old Jones had defended his title eight times, after he became the youngest champion in UFC history in 2011. He was fined $1,000 and had his driver’s license suspended for six months in 2012 after being charged with DWI in New York state, in an incident in which he crashed his Bentley into a utility pole.