Last week was a very busy one for UFC President Dana White, but now that UFC 197 and the return of Jon Jones to the Octagon is a done deal, White must now turn his focus to more pressing matters: securing a noteworthy main card for UFC 200.
It all started with McGregor’s refusal to attend recent scheduled press conferences to promote the UFC 200 rematch that he insisted on getting against Nate Diaz. This decision by McGregor has (somewhat ironically) drawn all sorts of media attention to the event’s main card, with Nate Diaz indicating that if McGregor is out then he no longer wishes to fight either. Admittedly, the whole thing seemed like either some sort of elaborate publicity stunt (possibly to drown out Friday’s Bellator event, which featured former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson in his debut for the growing promotion) or maybe even a negotiating tactic for McGregor as his celebrity peaks and declines. But whatever the case, White has officially announced that the McGregor-Diaz rematch is off, leaving a void in the headlining slot of what would have unquestionably been an enormous draw for the UFC. (Update: another confusing Tweet from McGregor)
Meanwhile, Jon “Bones” Jones made his return to the Octagon in a fight that had originally been intended for the light heavyweight belt before current champ Daniel Cormier backed out due to a foot injury. Cormier (17-1) suffered his only loss in professional MMA to Jones at UFC 182, which cost him the belt. But he regained the title after it was left vacant following Jones’s suspension. With Jones (currently the pound-for-pound number one fighter in the UFC ranks) trying to get his career back on track, a rematch with Cormier remains right in his crosshairs. Although criticized as not quite the return to form that many expected from Jones, his performance against Ovince Saint Preux showed that a little hard partying hasn’t slowed down the former champ too much. Starting the bout in his signature crouch, Jones dominated OSP with oblique kicks, flush elbows, and devastating takedowns throughout all five rounds, earning him a unanimous decision win over the contender. When presented with the interim belt, Jones tossed it aside, telling UFC color commentator Joe Rogan in his post-fight interview that he’s after the real gold.
UFC 200 is expected to host an interim featherweight title fight between José Aldo and Frankie Edgar, as well as Miesha Tate’s first UFC title defense against Amanda Nunes. Following Jones’s win over OSP, the new interim light heavyweight champ expressed his interest in fighting at the event. When asked if Bones would get a chance to unify the title at UFC 200, Dana White indicated it would certainly be a possibility if both Jones and Cormier were in good health. While Saint Preux apparently suffered a broken arm as a result of his opponent’s ruthless kicks at UFC 197, Jones apparently had to be wheeled out of the event in a wheelchair due to some sort of foot injury. Daniel Cormier, meanwhile, is scheduled for an MRI on April 25 and made it clear to one fan on Twitter following UFC 200 that he was rooting for Jones to win so he could be his next opponent:
So u do know I was rooting for Jon right. https://t.co/n5W3ZvNgeg
— Daniel Cormier (@dc_mma) April 24, 2016
While a scrapped rematch between McGregor and Diaz might alienate a lot of casual fans from UFC 200, it also leaves room for another grudge match that many still can’t wait to see go down. Time and cleared medical reports will soon tell whether White will make an announcement of a Jones vs. Cormier II rematch at UFC 200.