Jon Jones is out of UFC 200 after the U.S. Anti Doping Agency (USADA) notified the interim light heavyweight champion of a potential drug violation.
The 28-year-old New Yorker was scheduled to fight Daniel Cormier, the outright title holder, in Las Vegas this weekend in the most highly anticipated event in Ultimate Fighting Championship history.
But it was revealed on Wednesday that Jones had tested positive for a banned substance in a sample taken on June 16, 2016.
“The UFC organization was notified tonight that the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) has informed Jon Jones of a potential anti-doping policy violation stemming from an out-of-competition sample collection on June 16, 2016,” the UFC vice president of athlete health and performance, Jeff Novitzky, announced on Wednesday.
“USADA, the independent administrator of the UFC anti-doping policy, will handle results management and appropriate adjudication of this case.
“It is important to note under the UFC anti-doping policy there’s a full, fair legal review process that is afforded to all athletes before any sanctions are imposed.
“However, because Jones was scheduled to compete against Daniel Cormier this coming Saturday, July 9 in Las Vegas, there’s insufficient time for a full review before the scheduled bout and therefore the fight has been removed from the fight card.”
The news has sent shockwaves through the mixed martial arts world and soured what was supposed to be the greatest fight night in UFC history.
It is not the first time Jones has been shrouded in controversy.
He pled guilty to DUI charges in 2012 and was suspended by the UFC last year following his arrest for fleeing the scene of a hit and run.
Jones has also tested positive for a banned substance in the past, prior to UFC 182, which resulted in a rehab stint.
UFC president Dana White said: “Obviously, he’s got the chance to prove himself innocent before being held guilty, but if it’s true, obviously super, super disappointing.
“The way this process works, the Nevada State Athletic Commission is told first, then we are told and then they notify the fighters.”
Nobody has felt the impact worse than the man who was supposed to face Jones this weekend – a fact not lost on White.
“When you have the biggest, baddest fight card ever assembled, you know, it doesn’t sting as bad when you lose a fight,” the UFC boss said.
“But it stings real bad for Daniel Cormier. This is devastating to him, his family, and I’d like for him to fight another guy.”
Appearing beside White at a press conference in Vegas, Cormier welcomed the suggestion of fighting an alternative opponent.
“I’ve trained hard and long,” he said.
“If anybody would fight, I would fight. Why not?
“I understand the difficult task it would be to find me a fight on two days.
“I’m willing to fight up, put on some weight, 225, 220 (pounds). I’ll fight. It doesn’t matter.
“I just can’t fight a really big guy, because I’ve been shrinking my body.”
Cormier added: “I’ve worked really hard to prepare for this.
“You take care of what you need to take care of, that’s what I did.
“More than anything, it’s really disappointing.”
Even though the top card is ruined, the rest of the bill at UFC 200 is stacked with quality fighters.
WWE star Brock Lesnar makes his return to the octagon against Mark Hunt, while Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar will resume hostilities in the featherweight division.
There’s also a big women’s ticket as Miesha Tate looks to defend her bantamweight title against Amanda Nunes.
The preliminary card kicks off at 6:30pm US eastern time on Saturday, July 9.