It has been an oddly quiet fight week for an event featuring UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones.
No change of venue at the last minute, no over-the-top trash talking and few references from his opponent to his transgressions outside the cage.
Even the abnormal results of a drug test released Thursday were quickly explained and put to rest.
There’s just not much drama as Jones prepares to defend the belt against Anthony Smith in the main event of UFC 235 on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena.
“I just feel like it’s another day at the office,” Jones said. “I’m just back at work. This is what I do.”
Jones last fought Dec. 29 against Alexander Gustafsson in Los Angeles, making this his fastest turnaround since first winning the title in 2011. His past few years have been plagued by disciplinary and performance-enhancing drug-related suspensions, limiting him to one fight per calendar year since 2014.
The December fight was moved from Las Vegas on less than a week’s notice when Jones’ drug tests showed irregularities and the Nevada Athletic Commission said it didn’t have time to vet the results.
“This week is night and day,” Jones said. “I’m not starting out with half the audience mad at me. I’ve got a great opponent, and we’ve been respectful of each other, so that’s refreshing.”
The 31-year-old might be the best ever in his profession, but his immense talent and unparalleled resume inside the cage often is overshadowed by the trouble outside it.
Jones insists he’s in a good place now, largely through accepting his past.
“I embrace it now,” he said. “It’s the only story I know. If I don’t embrace it, nobody can. I always try to smile and reflect my best energy because I owe it to myself. It’s been a process to get to that point, just learning to accept yourself and realizing that at the end of the day everyone has piece of (expletive) qualities. A lot of people just know about mine.”
Jones said his biggest regrets are the drunken-driving incidents. The father of three daughters added that he now has a personal driver for his nights on the town.
He also said there’s time to change the narrative of his career.
“The majority of my career has been a really big success,” he said. “I try not to dwell on the things that have gone bad. I get that side is more entertaining to talk about, but when you really think about a small-town kid from Rochester, New York, now to be here where I’m at today, I’d say I’ve done the majority of things right.”
The past is still hard to shake, especially when the remnants of it keep reappearing. Jones still is dealing with what scientists have testified to as pulsing effects of an illegal substance that he was suspended for more than a year ago.
He is regularly tested by five agencies, and several recent tests again have shown long-term metabolites of Turinabol, including two conducted last month that surfaced Thursday.
“All of us are of the opinion that while it’s not great that every time Jon fights an issue like this comes up, based on the amount of testing he’s had over the last two months, these low-level positives are the best evidence we’ve seen of what these experts are telling us,” UFC vice president of athlete health and performance Jeff Novitzky said.
Jones said he feels obligated to his fans.
“I feel like my fans, the few I have left, have been so loyal and so supportive and loving,” he said. “I want them to be able to just get back out there and let them wear their T-shirts again with pride and be able to say, ‘This is why I supported him through the bad times.’ I just want to make it up to them.”
Main card bouts Saturday at T-Mobile Arena:
— Jon Jones (23-1, 1 No Contest) vs. Anthony Smith (31-13), for Jones’ light heavyweight title
— Tyron Woodley (19-3-1) vs. Kamaru Usman (14-1), for Woodley’s welterweight title
— Robbie Lawler (28-12) vs. Ben Askren (18-0, 1 No Contest), welterweights
— Tecia Torres (10-3) vs. Weili Zhang (18-1), women’s strawweights
— Cody Garbrandt (11-2) vs. Pedro Munhoz (17-3, 1 No Contest), bantamweights