Jon Jones shows his respect for UFC rival Daniel Cormier

There’s a simple reason Jon Jones offered kind words to Daniel Cormier after taking the UFC light heavyweight belt from him instead of using the opportunity to rub the victory in the face of his bitter rival.

Despite all the vitriol and nasty words between them over the years, Jones just doesn’t think Cormier is a bad person.

“Daniel for the most part is a fierce competitor, a pretty good individual and a standup athlete and champion,” Jones said during an appearance on “Good Morning America” on Monday. “I know how important our fight was for him. It was a legacy fight for him and I didn’t want a win or a loss to determine his legacy. I wanted people to see him for the man he is outside of the octagon. I think that’s equally important. I just wanted to shed some light on who he really is and I think that was just.”

The third-round knockout over Cormier at UFC 214 in Anaheim, California, on July 29 was the culmination of a long road back to the top of the division. He reclaimed the belt more than two years after it was stripped for his involvement in a hit-and-run accident.

“Daniel kept it nice and shiny for me. I’m excited to have it back,” Jones said of the belt. “It feels great. It’s definitely not been an easy journey, but I’m grateful for the good that came out of it. I feel like my life gets to be a testimony for others who are struggling.

“Hopefully my life inspires people to never give up despite how ugly things can get at times.”

Jones, who has also been through a separate DUI charge, a positive cocaine test and a one-year suspension from USADA between a whole lot of dominant performances in the cage, believes his life is in order now and it will make him a better champion the second time around.

“Absolutely I do,” he said. “ It’s been a major journey to get back to this point. Things got pretty dark there for a minute, but I just stayed faithful and remembered why I started this thing and that’s what helped me get back to this point.”

Jones eagerly awaits his next opponent now that the book is seemingly closed on the rivalry with Cormier that has been the story of the light heavyweight division over the last three years.

Jones has called out professional wrestling star and former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar, but there are several roadblocks in the way.

Lesnar is still under suspension from USADA and would need to re-enter the random testing pool for at least six months in order to return to competition. He is also still under contract with the WWE until early next year.

“It may be awhile before Brock Lesnar is eligible to fight,” Jones said after joking ‘GMA’ host Michael Strahan could be his next challenger. “Right now, I’m just kind of waiting to hear from the UFC about some different ideas outside of (Lesnar).”

Jones has won 14 straight fights since suffering the lone loss of his career by disqualification for landing illegal elbows on Matt Hamill.

‘Tuf 26’ cast revealed

UFC officials have released the cast for Season 26 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” which is currently filming in Las Vegas and will air beginning on Aug. 30.

A cast of 16 female fighters will compete on the show with the winner of the tournament being crowned the UFC’s first women’s flyweight champion.

Las Vegan Roxanne Modafferi, a previous contestant on the show, is one of the contestants. She is joined by another local, Emily Whitmire.

Lauren Murphy, whose last four fights have come in the UFC, dropped down from bantamweight and will be on the show, which will have Justin Gaethje and Eddie Alvarez as coaches.

Ariel Beck, DeAnna Bennett, Shana Dobson, Sijara Eubanks, Melinda Fabian, Karine Gevorgyan, Barb Honchak, Christina Marks, Nicco Montano, Rachael Ostovich, Gillian Robertson, Maia Stevenson and Montana Stewart round out the cast.

More MMA: Follow all of our MMA and UFC coverage online at CoveringTheCage.com and @CoveringTheCage on Twitter.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com or 702-277-8028. Follow @adamhilllvrj on Twitter.

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