Jon Jones will return to headline UFC 235 in Las Vegas following the Nevada Athletic Commission’s approval of a one-fight license for the light-heavyweight champion, who will have to undergo rigorous performance-enhancing-drug testing.
Commission Chairman Anthony Marnell said Jones, who regained his belt by defeating Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 232 in December at the Forum, must submit to at least twice-monthly testing by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, ongoing random testing by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Assn. and unannounced tests ordered twice a month or more by the Nevada commission.
Jones (23-1) is scheduled to meet Anthony Smith (31-13) in the main event of UFC 235, a card that also includes a welterweight title defense by Tyron Woodley against Kamaru Usman, and unbeaten welterweight Ben Askren’s UFC debut versus former champion Robbie Lawler.
Jones was originally denied a fighter’s license in Nevada late last month following the presence of a minimal amount of the steroid turinabol in his system.
The California State Athletic Commission, which suspended Jones in 2017 and fined him $205,000 for testing positive for the same substance, subsequently allowed Jones to fight at the Forum and he stopped Gustafsson in the third round.
California commission Executive Officer Andy Foster said he was convinced after consulting with experts that the trace amount found in Jones was not performance enhancing and likely the long-lasting residue of the positive test that changed a victory over Daniel Cormier to a no-contest.
In testimony Tuesday, anti-doping experts echoed that. In unanimously approving Jones’ conditional license, the state ruled that the level must remain low by the standards of the experts.
“If there’s a spike, we’ll have to get on the phone,” Marnell told the experts.
The commission also ordered Jones to pay for the tests, and warned him that any missed test would likely stop him from gaining a license again.
Dr. Daniel Eicher from the World Anti-Doping Agency lab in Salt Lake City that screened Jones’ sample in December and USADA Director of Science Matthew Fedoruk testified that long-term steroid metabolites may persist through red blood cells and fat for “an awful long time … four to five years.”
Fedoruk said, “I agree with that saying,” that there’s no benefit effect of the drug at this level, adding, “I see no evidence of further administration since .”
Under oath, Jones said “no” when asked if he ever intentionally took turinabol, or if he knew how it got in his system. He said he’s reduced the number of supplements he uses from 14 to four.
The commission informed Jones that a minimum of twice-monthly testing will be in effect for him through 2019.
“Fighting in Nevada is important to me, it’s the fight capital of the world … being able to fight in Las Vegas, when the people of Nevada love mixed martial arts, I want to give the fans what they want,” said Jones, the UFC’s former No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter who has been suspended for two positive PED tests since 2016, and previously had cocaine in his system before defeating Cormier in early 2015.
He last fought in Nevada in April 2016.
“If we listened to some of the experts, your career would be over … we paused, we didn’t have enough information … I’m not going to ruin this man’s career,” Chairman Marnell said during the hearing.