UFC 187 was supposed to be one of the best lineups the octagon has hosted in recent memory, which was to be highlighted by a light heavyweight shootout between champion Jon Jones (pictured) and Anthony Johnson.
Instead, Jones was arrested for felony hit-and-run, indefinitely suspended by the UFC and stripped of his hardware.
The UFC moved quickly to try and salvage the highly-anticipated event by arranging a title tilt between Johnson and former top contender Daniel Cormier for the vacant 205-pound belt. Not a bad Plan B, but still not the same.
During Wednesday’s UFC 187 conference call, Jones was still the hottest topic of discussion despite the fact he won’t be anywhere near MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on May 23. The primary question is, will Johnson or Cormier be considered the real champion or merely a paper champ in the eyes of fans because the winner never beat Jones, the most decorated champion in UFC light heavyweight history?
“He casts such a big shadow on the division,” Cormier said of his archenemy. “So any time this weight is discussed, there’s going to be some mention of Jon Jones. For me, I wasn’t scheduled to fight for the championship. Anthony was scheduled to fight for the belt – he’s getting what he was promised when he beat Alexander Gustafsson in January.
“If anybody should be asking the question of whether or not the belt is real, it should be me, because I just fought for it and lost. He’s getting exactly what he was promised. It’s not his fault that something happened to his opponent outside of the ring that the fight couldn’t go forward. If I was Anthony, I’d be a little bit annoyed, because I was only fighting for what I was promised.”
Johnson agreed with Cormier on all counts. Jones is the best, but it’s not their fault “Bones” decided to be a bonehead … again.
“Jon, in my eyes, is still the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world in our weight class,” stated Johnson. “Everybody in our weight class wants to say I competed against the best and I fought against the best. That’s the part that’s disappointing because he’s not around right now.
“It’s almost like they see us as some chumps or something like that. We didn’t make Jon do what he did. That was his own doing … Whoever wins this title is not the paper champion. We’re the champion of this weight class. We’re #1. We’re the best.”
Once Jones clears his legal troubles and decides to return to action, Johnson and Cormier agree that he should get an immediate crack to reclaim his throne if he so chooses. Perhaps that’s when the true champion will be crowned.