UFC 232 Moved To Los Angeles From Las Vegas

‘Card subject to change’ is a disclaimer familiar to fans in every fight sport. It means that the promotion can and will revise the matchups and competitors on a fight card. It isn’t expected to mean that the entire card might pick up and move to another state but that’s what happened today with the UFC’s announcement that UFC 232 has been moved to The Forum in Inglewood, California. The card was originally slated for the beautiful new T-Mobile Arena in the heart of the Las Vegas Strip. UFC 232 will be held on Saturday, December 29 headlined by Jon Jones’ return to fighting after an absence of more than a year.

That’s the broad strokes but the backstory is a bit strange and somewhat convoluted. Jon Jones is scheduled to meet Alexander Gustafsson in the UFC 232 main event hoping to regain the light heavyweight title. Jones was stripped of the title after a positive drug test for a M3 metabolite prior to a July 2017 title fight against Daniel Cormier in Los Angeles. The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) suspended Jones for 15 months and he was fined $205,000 by the state of California.

Jones took a drug test on December 9 in which the USADA reported an ‘atypical finding’ consistent with ‘residual amounts’ from the 2017. In other words, Jones somehow got the trace metabolite in his system via some type of incidental contact and not through intentional administration of a ‘parent drug’. Even after suspending Jones for 15 months in July 2017 the USADA eventually ruled that it did not appear that Jones had committed ‘intentional doping’ though maintained the punishment that had been handed down.

This is where everything gets interesting. The USADA has informed the UFC and the Nevada Athletic Commission (NSAC) that it does not classify the December 9 test as being ‘performance enhancing’. In theory, this shouldn’t jeopardize Jones’ licensing to fight in Nevada but with the bout just six days away and most of the NSAC Commissioners out of town for the holidays there’s no way that he could deal with all of the ‘red tape’ in time.

Facing the prospect of canceling a huge payday, the UFC brokered an unprecedented venue change. Jones had been licensed to fight in California earlier this month and the ‘Golden State’ commission required only a drug test for certification. Jones tested clean on Sunday and the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) approved the fight. The Nevada Commission allowed Jones to withdraw his request for a license to fight in the ‘Silver State’ and will have him appear in early 2019 to discuss the matter. The NSAC’s statement:

“Today, NSAC Executive Director Bob Bennett announced that, in consultation with NSAC Commission Chair Anthony Marnell III, unarmed combatant Jon Jones will be allowed to withdraw his pending application for licensure, which was intended to clear him to fight in a major contest in Nevada later this month.”

“After extensive analysis of Mr. Jones’ prior 18 months of USADA in- and out-of-competition anti-doping drug testing results, Director Bennett, Chair Marnell and Mr. Jones agree that he will appear at an evidentiary hearing in January. This will allow for a measured, thoughtful and comprehensive discussion of his anti-doping testing protocol and results and provide an opportunity for the NSAC to determine the appropriate path forward for him in Nevada. We look forward to his hearing.”

The fight media is still trying to make sense of all of this. Depending on how you want to spin it, the Nevada decision to help broker the site change is either a breath of fresh air with states cooperating to do what is best for fight fans or another indication of how money rules everything in the sport. Regardless of the broader implications of the situation the fight is still set with the entire card picking up and moving 4 hours down Interstate 15. The UFC betting odds for the fight have Jones installed as a -275 favorite with takeback on Gustafsson at +235. The Over/Under is set at 4.5 rounds.

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