LOS ANGELES — Jon Jones is unhappy with the Nevada Athletic Commission’s decision to assign referee John McCarthy to his light heavyweight title bout against Daniel Cormier next month at UFC 200.
“I would prefer any other referee but him,” Jones said Tuesday.
Jones and Cormier will meet in the main event of UFC 200 on July 9 in Las Vegas, continuing their lengthy rivalry. Jones is hoping to reclaim the 205-pound belt that was stripped from him last year after his involvement in a hit-and-run accident.
Jones’ manager contacted the Nevada commission last week to register their camp’s displeasure with the assignment of McCarthy, a veteran official who has presided over countless big fights. The Nevada commission determined Jones’ complaint wasn’t substantive enough to change the assignment.
Jones (22-1) declined to be precise about the reasons for his objection to McCarthy, but left little doubt he is still bothered by the athletic commission’s choice for the third man in the cage.
“It’s been a mixture of many things throughout the years,” Jones said. “Just the energy. I don’t feel like we have the best energy, and it’s been an accumulation of some things that was happening during some fights and just our personal interactions.”
McCarthy refereed Jones’ title defenses against Lyoto Machida, Vitor Belfort and Alexander Gustafsson. Jones repeatedly has said his narrow victory over Gustafsson was the toughest fight of his career, not his victory over Cormier (17-1) in January 2015.
Jones realizes his objection to McCarthy likely will have no impact, but he remains disappointed.
“For me, this is my life,” Jones said. “This is my story. This is my legacy. This is everything to me, and if I don’t agree with his energy that he brings to the fight, if I was him, I wouldn’t want to be a part of it. I’m not going to go so far as to say, ‘You’re not welcome,’ but why would you even want to be a part of someone’s big night that doesn’t want you in there with them? I would respect that and say, ‘I’ll back out of this one. I don’t need to be in this fight if they don’t want me.’
“I don’t feel as if we’ve had the best interactions over the years, and I would just really hope he’s not the referee.”
Jones made eight title defenses in a 3 1/2-year span while becoming the fighter widely considered to be the world’s best mixed martial artist. But he was stripped of his belt last year after the latest in a string of behavioral problems.
Cormier lost a clear decision to Jones in their first meeting, but claimed the vacant belt four months later by beating Anthony Johnson. Cormier defended the belt with a win over Gustafsson in October.
Jones and Cormier were scheduled to meet in April, but Cormier pulled out with a foot injury. Jones beat late replacement Ovince Saint Preux at UFC 197, winning his first fight in 15 months.