A few explosive words on Twitter was all it took to spark talk of a potential trilogy fight between Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones, but it could be Cormier’s heavyweight championship win at UFC 226 that’s ultimately responsible for reigniting the greatest feud in MMA history.
The battle of kings awaits the two-division ruler and former pound-for-pound czar.
Even after Brock Lesnar hijacked the show on Saturday night, Jones’ chilling words nearly two weeks prior to Cormier’s triumphant victory over Stipe Miocic hung over the parade like an immutable cloud of darkness.
“Never say never,” the former light heavyweight champ responded when asked if he’d consider chasing Cormier to the heavyweight division.
Never say never https://t.co/7KRPENeZ2M
— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) June 25, 2018
It was only a matter of time before Jones’ name crept into the conversation, as Cormier gleefully sat in front of media members at the UFC 226 post-fight press conference, fielding questions regarding his fight with Miocic and a possible future bout with Lesnar.
“I would, if he’s around, but I don’t even know if he’s going to be around,” Cormier responded, when asked if he would take a third fight with Jones. “But honestly, at this point, does he even deserve it? I hold all the cards now. He may have won the fights, but I hold the cards.”
Cormier followed up by saying he was interested in taking a couple more fights—one at light heavyweight and the other at heavyweight—before hanging up his gloves and calling it a career.
However, those plans come with a strict deadline of March 20th.
Jones, who remains indefinitely suspended after testing positive for an anabolic steroid last year, would have to be miraculously cleared to fight within that timeframe. Although it isn’t technically impossible, the chances of a third fight coming together so quickly are likely slim to none.
“I think that with this, I don’t need [Jones],” said Cormier. “For everyone that said you’re a fake champion, you can’t question [the heavyweight title]. You might question that light heavyweight title, and you can question it to the grave. But I have something completely separate from him.”
Past heavyweight talk for Jones has been mostly conjecture for a rainy day, but the very presence of Cormier on the throne might be what finally pushes him towards the move.
After going Twitter silent for a couple weeks, the former UFC champion dropped another teaser on Monday, even comparing himself to top heavyweight contenders.
Just keep in mind that life is a journey and not a race. If it’s in Gods will for me to still be here and healthy, please believe that they’ll be many more fights to come. Let’s not forget I’m still the youngest guy in the top 5 at HW & LHW @UniqueMazique 🙂🤙🏾
— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) July 9, 2018
A move to the heavyweight division has never made more sense for Jones, considering all that’s left for him at light heavyweight are rematches and a bevy of unknown contenders. Cormier couldn’t even name a top contender at 205 pounds outside of Alexander Gustafsson when put on the spot at the post-fight presser.
Sticking around at light heavyweight might be something Jones would consider if he was still in the hunt for the record for most consecutive UFC title defenses, but that ship has sailed for the time being with flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson sitting comfortably up front.
A move to heavyweight would give Jones a real opportunity to quell all of the negative fallout from the failed drug test. He could potentially bookend his longstanding rivalry with Cormier, or he could start his own quest for heavyweight gold and seek to become the UFC’s first dominant heavyweight king.
No heavyweight champion has ever successfully defended the UFC title more than three consecutive times.
Imagine the legacy Jones would leave behind if he’s able to win the title and go on a run similar to what he accomplished at light heavyweight, where he successfully defended his throne eight consecutive times. That might be the only path available to him now that Cormier holds all the cards.
Even if USADA forgoes the four-year death penalty and signs off on Jones’ return before March, Cormier could simply turn down any request for a third fight. He’s already coasting through his final months competing with a wrap-up plan in place for next year.
Meanwhile, Jones is left on the outside looking into a two-division scenario that could have easily been all about him. If not for a few career missteps, maybe he’d be the two-division champion, soaking up all the attention and accepting a challenge from Lesnar.
Maybe he still can be.
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 7/9/2018