It’s a rematch mixed martial arts fans have wanted to see for five years and it could finally come to fruition at UFC 232 in December.
According to reports from ESPN’s Brett Okamoto and Ariel Helwani, UFC officials are working to put together a rematch between former 205-pound champion Jon Jones and longtime contender Alexander Gustafsson at the promotion’s year-end event on Dec. 29 in Las Vegas.
Jones defeated Gustafsson by unanimous decision at UFC 165 in Toronto in 2013. The fight, a tightly contested five-round scrap many thought Gustafsson won, is regarded as one of the greatest title fights in MMA history. It’s also widely considered Jones’ toughest fight to date – even though there are reports suggesting Jones barely trained for that fight and did not take Gustafsson seriously as an opponent.
Bout agreements for a rematch have not been signed, so nothing is official, but White told Okamoto in a text message: “It’s one of the greatest light heavyweight title fights in history and I expect the rematch to be the same!!!!”
A rematch was scheduled for UFC 178, one year after their first encounter, but Gustafsson was forced to withdraw due to injury and the two were never paired up again. The two fighters have gone back and forth on social media over the years and fans have always listed Jones-Gustafsson II as a fight worth making despite Jones’ more heated rivalry with current two-weight champ Daniel Cormier.
Gustafsson has gone 3-2 since UFC 165. He bounced back from his loss to Jones by knocking out Jimi Manuwa, but then suffered a knockout loss to Anthony Johnson and dropped a split decision to Cormier in a title fight. He has since picked up back-to-back dominant victories over Jan Błachowicz and Glover Teixeira but hasn’t fought since May 2017.
Meanwhile, Jones’s toughest opponent since he fought Gustafsson has been himself. Jones has faced legal troubles, failed drug tests, been suspended by athletic commissions and was stripped of his UFC title on multiple occasions. Throughout all the setbacks, Jones has competed four times since edging the big Swede at Scotiabank Arena.
Jones earned unanimous decision wins over Teixeira in 2014, Cormier in 2015 and Ovince Saint Preux in 2016. His most recent fight was a knockout of Cormier in their UFC 214 grudge match but that win was overturned and changed to a no-contest when it was revealed Jones had tested positive for traces of an anabolic steroid. Jones was subsequently suspended but last week the United States Anti-Doping Agency, which oversees the UFC Anti-Doping Program, announced Jones will be eligible to return to competition as early as Oct. 28. Jones potentially faced a four-year suspension because he is a repeat offender.
“It’s difficult to express myself at this moment, but I can definitely say my heart is filled with gratitude and appreciation,” Jones wrote on his social media accounts after the ruling. “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.”
The UFC at times has a difficult task in booking high-profile main events for their pay-per-view events, but Helwani provided some context for how the UFC came to the decision to try booking a Jones-Gustafsson rematch.
UFC 232 is set to take place at T-Mobile Arena with the following bouts expected to take place at the event.
• Cris “Cyborg” Justino vs. Amanda Nunes (former women’s featherweight title)
• Michael Chiesa vs. Carlos Condit
• B.J. Penn vs. Ryan Hall
• Ilir Latifi vs. Corey Anderson
• Gilbert Melendez vs. Arnold Allen
• Jessica Eye vs. Sijara Eubanks