It was just a little more than a week ago that the UFC moved a major pay-per-view event out of Las Vegas and relocated it to Los Angeles.
Now, the organization may be trying to make it up to the city.
UFC 235, scheduled for March 2 at T-Mobile Arena, is shaping up to be a massive event should plans come to fruition this time.
Of course, that will require light heavyweight champion Jon Jones to get through his licensing hearing with the Nevada Athletic Commission on Jan. 29.
Should that happen, Jones will defend his belt against Anthony Smith in the main event of UFC 235, according to UFC president Dana White.
Jones was at the center of the drama around UFC 232 last month when confusion about his out-of-competition drug tests from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency prompted the fight card to move out of Nevada less than a week before fight night because there was no time to have a licensing hearing when the new information came to light.
He is scheduled to appear before the commission later this month in a bid to get his license and will fight in the state after all should that process go as smoothly as White expects.
“He didn’t do anything wrong,” White said after Jones reclaimed the belt at UFC 232. “I don’t know what to expect, but I would be blown away if they didn’t give him a license to fight in Nevada. It makes no sense — it makes no sense at all.”
The commission was informed the UFC would announce a fight for Jones this week even though he is still unlicensed. It won’t have any impact on its process or decision.
Jones hopes to stay busy after fighting just once each year since 2014.
“In the past I would fight then shut everything down while I filled my schedule with partying and nonsense, but in the aftermath of reclaiming my belt the only thing I want to do is get back in there,” he posted on social media. “I want to step back into the cage and continue to prove why I’m the best light heavyweight in the world.
“I’m mapping out the year ahead and I’m absolutely going to kick the (expletive) out of 2019. I want to fight three times this year and leave zero doubt of my dominance as a champion. I’m going to do this because that’s what my passion dictates, but it’s also what you fans deserve.”
That will start with a matchup against Smith, but it’s not the only title fight expected on the card. UFC officials have confirmed a second title bout between Kamaru Usman and welterweight champ Tyron Woodley will be contested.
The card also is expected to feature three former champions. Former welterweight champion Robbie Lawler will welcome undefeated former collegiate wrestling star Ben Askren to the UFC and former bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt will fight Pedro Munhoz. Former women’s bantamweight champ Holly Holm will fight Aspen Ladd.
White recently said he expects to book a rematch between lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and former UFC lightweight and featherweight champion Conor McGregor for a date this year depending on what punishments they receive from the NAC for their role in a brawl after their October fight at T-Mobile Arena.
McGregor may have other plans in the meantime as he challenged Japanese kickboxing star Tenshin Nasukawa on social media this week.
Nasukawa was in the headlines last week for losing an exhibition boxing bout to Floyd Mayweather in Japan. He responded that he would welcome a bout against McGregor at 127 pounds under kickboxing rules.
McGregor has been champ at 145 and 155 while competing as high as 170 pounds in the UFC.
Covington fuming over title shot snub
Not everyone was thrilled with Usman being granted the title shot against Woodley.
Top contender Colby Covington, a winner of six straight fights who briefly held the interim belt, took his displeasure to ESPN on Monday.
“They made promises to me that I was going to fight Tyron Woodley in November in Madison Square Garden,” he said on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show. “They made promises to me that I was going to fight him in January in California. Then all of a sudden I’m getting passed up for a guy behind me that’s being my sloppy seconds. It’s not even a guy fans want to see. If anything, Dana and UFC are (expletive) on the fans.
“(Expletive) you, UFC.”
Covington challenged the UFC to release him if they don’t want to grant him a title shot.