LOS ANGELES — Former UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones is eligible to return to competition by late October after completing a 15-month suspension for a doping violation.
The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency on Wednesday announced the length of Jones’ ban for his second violation of the UFC’s anti-doping policy. He has been suspended since testing positive for a steroid metabolite last summer, and the ban will conclude Oct. 28 — 15 months after the collection of the positive sample.
The decision by an arbitrator means the 31-year-old Jones could even fight at UFC 230 in New York on Nov. 3, if the mixed martial arts promotion decides to book his comeback bout on that card.
"It’s difficult to express myself at this moment, but I can definitely say my heart is filled with gratitude and appreciation," Jones said in a statement posted on his social media accounts. "I want to thank all of you who have stood by me during the toughest stretch of my life. It has meant the world to me and always will. But now is the time to shift the focus front and centre to the road ahead. Greatness is what I’m chasing and the path to reclaiming my throne is now officially open. Comeback Season begins now."
Jones could have been suspended for four years for a second failed test, but arbitrator Richard H. McLaren determined the ban’s length by evaluating Jones’ degree of fault. Jones claimed he didn’t knowingly take any banned substances, and he passed several out-of-competition drug tests leading up to his failed in-competition test, one day before UFC 214 in Anaheim, California.
California State Athletic Commission executive officer Andy Foster said his group is "agreeable, in concept" to the 15-month suspension, but added that Jones still must pay a $205,000 fine.
The relative leniency of the suspension — and the fact that it ends one week before UFC 230, which currently has no main event for Madison Square Garden — attracted bemusement from some of his fellow fighters on Twitter.
Lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov used an expletive to refer to USADA while complaining its decision includes too "much politics."
Heavyweight Curtis Blaydes also weighed in : "No shade to JJ but no one is surprised by this arbitrary decision. USADA is steadily losing respect in the fight community to the point of questioning why they even exist."
Jones (22-1, 1 no-contest) is widely considered the best pound-for-pound mixed martial artist in the world, but he has repeatedly sabotaged his own career.
He reclaimed the light heavyweight title from Daniel Cormier last year, but the victory was taken away when he tested positive.
Jones also failed an out-of-competition doping test in 2016, testing positive for two anti-estrogen agents. That result forced the late cancellation of his headline bout against Cormier at UFC 200. Jones, who claimed the result was due to a sexual enhancement pill, received a yearlong suspension.
Jones tested positive for cocaine use in 2015, later publicly acknowledging that he used the drug. His checkered history also includes an arrest after a hit-and-run accident in New Mexico in which he broke a pregnant woman’s arm in 2015, a scuffle with Cormier in a casino lobby while promoting a bout in 2014, and an arrest for driving under the influence after he crashed his Bentley into a pole in 2012.