Things are suddenly looking pretty interesting in the UFC light heavyweight division. Champ Daniel Cormier and challenger Anthony “Rumble” Johnson are scheduled for an imminent title rematch. Pride legend Mauricio “Shogun” Rua is enjoying an unlikely, late-career resurgence, and appears to be poised for one last title run. England’s Jimi Manuwa has burst into title contention with destructive knockouts of top-10 foes in Ovince St. Preux and Corey Anderson. And all the while prospects like Tyson Pedro, Paul Craig, Volkan Oezdemir and Misha Cirkunov are working to earn their places in the light heavyweight ranks.
All the action that occurs at light heavyweight, however, has a shadow cast over it by one man: former champion Jon Jones, who was stripped of the title after a litany of troubles outside the cage – several of which were drug-related.
At the moment, Jones is on the tail-end of a USADA-administered suspension stemming from a failed drug test in July of 2016. That suspension will wrap up in July, which means the former champ is likely to be ready for a return this summer.
As the possibility of a Jon Jones return grows ever larger on the horizon, there has been much discussion about whether or not he deserves an immediate title shot, or if he should be given a tune-up fight with another contender – such as Manuwa.
According to the rising Misha Cirkunov, who appeared on a recent episode of BJ Penn Radio, Jones deserves any opportunities he’s given, with the stipulation that he’s able to pass USADA drug tests. His words:
“[Jones is] such a big name. It doesn’t really matter if he needs another fight before a title shot. Knowing him, I’m sure he doesn’t even care. He’ll fight anybody. He’s a real-deal fighter, you know? Whatever they give him, I think it would be fair. He had the belt, and I think if you give him a fight for the belt or another fight before the belt, it’d be interesting to see either one. He’s a very tough dude, so whatever they give him, he deserves, as long as he pisses clean with USADA.”
Do you think Jon Jones should return to an immediate title shot, or a warm-up fight with another contender? Sound off, PENN Nation!
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 3/19/2017.