UFC president defends Jon Jones fight at the Forum, says tickets will top out at $300
With the rapid shift of Saturday’s UFC 232 from Las Vegas to the Forum, L.A. fight fans can purchase a seat for no more than $300, UFC President Dana White told the Los Angeles Times on Monday.
“I don’t know how the cards is going to sell. I’ve never been in a situation where tickets went on sale Wednesday for a Saturday fight on the biggest holiday weekend of the year,” White said. “But the fight’s going to happen.”
White and UFC personnel had to scramble for a new venue in either California or Texas after learning the Nevada Athletic Commission would not sanction main-event fighter Jon Jones.
Jones (22-1), the former long-reigning light-heavyweight champion and UFC pound-for-pound No. 1, submitted a sample that came back positive for a metabolite of a steroid. It’s the same one the fighter tested positive for last year that led to his stoppage victory over Daniel Cormier in Anaheim being overturned to a no-contest.
Daniel Eichner of the World Anti-Doping Agency lab in Salt Lake City submitted a statement saying the metabolite had a powerful extra-long-lasting life that prompted the positive. He added that it would have no performance-enhancing effect on Jones’ Saturday rematch with two-time title challenger Alexander Gustafsson of Sweden.
With the Forum open on Saturday, California State Athletic Commission executive officer Andy Foster ordered Jones to have a steroid test, which came back negative, and then cleared him to fight. Foster had presided over Jones’ 15-month suspension and fine in excess of $200,000 for the Anaheim positive.
“The reality is this: Jon Jones didn’t do anything wrong,” said the UFC’s White. “I see everybody saying, ‘Why are you doing all this stuff for one guy?’ It’s not for one guy. There are two guys in this fight, and Alexander Gustafsson has been off for a year and a half, went through a long camp, trained hard for this fight, moved from Sweden to Las Vegas to adapt and acclimate … and Jon Jones didn’t do anything wrong.
“So this fight needs to happen,” he said, “and it needs to happen for Gustafsson, Jones and the whole division. This is what we do. We’ve figured it out.”
Despite criticism from Cormier and fans who question the staying power of the metabolite found in Jones, who has submitted a positive cocaine test and two other positives for PEDs in his career, White said he’s confident justice is prevailing.
“It makes sense” to stage the fight, White said, “because the foremost guy in the world is saying this is what happened with this drug. Experts are telling us this.
“There’s always going to be people saying” the fight shouldn’t happen, he added, “and, listen, Jon Jones has ... up more than anyone in the history of this sport. People are absolutely going to doubt him and not believe him.
“He needs to stay on the straight and narrow, continue to do the right things and continue to win fights to build his trust and respect back with the fans, media and everyone else. But right here, right now, this guy hasn’t done anything wrong. This fight is legit. This fight should happen. It will happen.
“And what Jon Jones does with himself after this will determine what people think of him.”
White said he was thankful he could turn to Foster and the Forum after recently canceling a card that was to be staged at the Honda Center on Jan. 26.
“There was no panic whatsoever. It depended on finding a venue on this short of notice, and the Forum was open,” White said. “The reality is Andy Foster is the one who was in the middle of [the 2017 Jones positive] and already up to speed. He had all the information and knowledge and it made sense.
“And this is Jones-Gustafsson — after the first one [in 2013] was the greatest light-heavyweight fight of all time,” he added. “It’s coming to L.A. now” along with the women’s featherweight bout between champions Cris Cyborg and Amanda Nunes. “I’m excited.”
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