Former longtime UFC light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones will return to the octagon for UFC 232 in Las Vegas on Dec. 29, organization sources revealed Wednesday, placing him in what will stand as a light-heavyweight championship against Alexander Gustafsson.
Jones will fight for the first time since July 2017, when his second victory over still-reigning-champion Daniel Cormier became a no-contest after Jones submitted a positive test for a performance-enhancing drug.
An arbitrator last month ruled that the positive test was a result of accidental contamination, shortening Jones’ suspension time to end this month and freeing him to launch training for the rematch.
Jones (23-1) defeated Gustafsson by unanimous decision in September 2013 in an action-packed UFC 165 bout that saw both men at their peak.
While Jones’ trouble with performance-enhancing drugs continued — he admitted he has gone to rehab this year, too — Gustafsson (18-4) lost a second title shot at Cormier (21-1) and has only fought twice since that Oct. 3, 2015, bout.
Cormier became only the second simultaneous two-division UFC champion in July when he knocked out heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic (18-3) in the first round, and Cormier on Tuesday was placed in the Nov. 3 main event of UFC 230 at Madison Square Garden against second-ranked contender Derrick Lewis (21-5).
UFC officials reportedly plan to strip Cormier of his light-heavyweight belt when the first bell rings for the Jones-Gustafsson fight.
A heavyweight title victory will free Cormier to decide whether, before his promised 2019 retirement, he’ll fight former UFC heavyweight champion and WWE performer Brock Lesnar next year, or if he’ll fight for the light-heavyweight title against the Jones-Gustafsson winner.
UFC President Dana White told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday that Cormier is not necessarily done as a light-heavyweight.
The Jones-Gustafsson card already includes a super-fight between women’s featherweight champion Cris Cyborg and her Brazilian countrywoman and bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes.