UFC 232 Fight moved from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas to California on Sunday night because of an atypical drug test finding for Jones. After the Nevada State Athletic Commission announced it wouldn’t grant Jones a license to fight.
In the main event, Jon Jones will face Alexander Gustafsson for the vacant UFC light heavyweight title. In the co-main event, Cris “Cyborg” Justino defends her women’s featherweight title against reigning UFC women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes.
The UFC 232 press conference will feature Jon Jones, Alexander Gustafsson, Cris Cyborg, Amanda Nunes, and UFC president Dana White on Friday evening. Many fighters didn’t take the news well or even first learned of the change on social media.
A trace of the metabolite of oral turinabol, in the size of one-50 millionth of a grain of sand, was discovered in an anti-doping sample given by Jon Jones to USADA on Dec. 9.
Independent experts found that it was not a re-ingestion of a banned substance but rather a residual affect from a prior situation, perhaps as long as 18 months or longer.
UFC executives Dana White, Jeff Novitzky and Hunter Campbell said the evidence is overwhelming that Jones has not ingested any illegal substances and that the finding of a picogram of oral turinabol in his system is a phenomenon seen by anti-doping experts. Jones passed four tests since agreeing to fight Alexander Gustafsson on Saturday at UFC 232.
Jones will still fight Gustafsson for the light heavyweight title on Saturday in the main event of UFC 232 after being cleared by USADA, but the fight will be moved from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas to The Forum in Inglewood, California.
The fight is being moved to California because the California State Athletic Commission is intimately familiar with Jones’ situation. Jones failed an anti-doping test for turinabol on July 28, 2017, the day before UFC 214 in Anaheim, California. His victory over Daniel Cormier the next night was changed to a no-contest.
Nevada officials aren’t as familiar with the 2017 case and because four of its five commissioners are out of town for the holidays, it agreed to allow Jones to go to California to fight and then appear at a January hearing in Nevada.
In a Dec. 20 statement to Ed Magaw, an assistant attorney general in Nevada, Jeff Cook, the results management and investigations senior director for USADA wrote:
“Upon careful consideration of the very low concentration of the DHCMT long-term metabolite in Mr. Jones’ Sample from December 9, 2018, and taking into account the human pharmacokinetic characteristics of this particular long-term anabolic steroid metabolite based on data to which USADA has access and in consultation with scientific experts, some of whose opinions are enclosed, USADA concluded, consistent with prior residual amounts detected in Mr. Jones’ samples, that the presence of DHMCT long-term metabolite in Mr. Jones’ Sample is consistent with residual amounts from exposure prior to July 28, 2017. Stated differently, the presence of the metabolite is not consistent with re-administration of a prohibited substance, and this very low level would not result in any performance enhancement in relation to Mr. Jones’ upcoming bout.”
White, the UFC president, made the decision to move the fight, which he said will cost the company millions of dollars. He said he was guaranteed a $6 million gate at T-Mobile Arena, but isn’t sure if he can get $1 million in ticket sales at The Forum. In addition, all of the fighters are flying to Las Vegas, and then will have to be transported and housed in Los Angeles.
White doesn’t know the impact of the news on the pay-per-view, but said it doesn’t matter how much money the company loses. Jones did nothing wrong and shouldn’t be penalized, he said.
White discounted postponing the fight because the two have gone through a full training camp and Gustafsson, who is from Sweden, has been living in Las Vegas away from his family during Christmas.
“You go back home and then have to start a whole new camp again for March [if we postponed it],” White said. “Why? I can do this. That’s what you have to do. It’s the only fair thing to do for everybody.”
Novitzky, who oversees the UFC’s anti-doping program, said a North American major sports league that is not the NHL — so either the NFL, NBA or Major League Baseball — has had 12-to-14 cases in recent years similar to Jones’ case.
He would not say what league it was or identify the athletes. But he said numerous anti-doping experts agreed that Jones’ Dec. 9 test is not consistent with new use of a banned substance. Further, he emphasized that it would not give him a benefit.
“For those who pay attention, in a strange kind of a way, this almost vindicates him in what he’s been saying all along,” Novitzky said. “Now you have USADA saying it in writing. You have [Dr. Daniel] Eichner of SMRTL [a WADA-accredited lab in Salt Lake City] saying it. You have Larry Bowers [former science director of USADA], another respected worldwide anti-doping expert, all of them saying ‘Yep, this guy didn’t do anything wrong.’ ”