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With Jon Jones back in the picture, who is in the running to headline UFC 230?

Jones’ retroactive suspension means he will be available to fight come the end of October, but will he feature at Madison Square Garden?

Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson shared the Octagon in 2013.
Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson shared the Octagon in 2013.
Image: Chris Young

WITH JON JONES’ retroactive 15-month ban handed down this morning by Usada, the former UFC light heavyweight champion will now be eligible to fight for the promotion from the end of October.

UFC president Dana White insisted on Wednesday that he has no intentions of including Jones in his plans for November’s UFC 230 card at Madison Square Garden, but an inclusion on the bill may not be entirely off the table.

The card is still without a main event and Jones’ established star power will no doubt thrust him into contention for top spot on the billing.

With Tyron Woodley still awaiting medical clearance to compete following his victory over Darren Till, we explore some of the options available to slot into the headline fight in New York City.

1) Tyron Woodley vs. Colby Covington

Depending on whether or not Woodley is given medical clearance to fight, it will be likely he will take the headline slot at MSG.

Not for the first time would the Ferguson native be defending his title in the famous arena, the 36-year-old could return to the setting of his first title defence – a draw against Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson at UFC 205 in 2016.

At his post fight press conference at UFC 228, Woodley admitted he didn’t believe Covington “deserved” a shot at the title but would be willing to fight anyone the UFC put in front of him.

“This guy had his chance,” he said. “He let Darren Till go out there and take his whopping for him. He tried to pause and wait for a bigger PPV, because his eyes got big.

“I’m willing to fight anybody. I’m the best in the world. Anyone they put in front of me, they’re going to get beat up.”

Covington expects to face Woodley sooner rather than later and feels he has earned his shot at the reigning UFC welterweight champion after defeating Rafael Dos Anjos in June to earn the interim 170lbs title – a belt which he was stripped of by White after the first punch was thrown between Woodley and Till.

The 30-year-old has won his last five fights on the bounce and did so in convincing style against RDA during their interim title bout.

Victory over Dos Anjos, who appeared to be the division’s most dangerous rising contender, set Covington apart as a genuine title contender.

Woodley added at his press event: “If it’s Colby Covington, if it’s Usman, if it’s Robert Whittaker [middleweight champion]. Whoever they want me to fight, we’re going to do it.”

The champion is still waiting to assess damage to his thumb, but says he will be ready to fight in November should he get the all clear.

UFC 228 Mixed Martial Arts Tyron Woodley connects with Darren Till in their welterweight title bout. Source: Jeffrey McWhorter

2) Nate Diaz vs. Dustin Poirier

Currently installed alongside Luke Rockhold and Chris Weidman’s rematch at the top of the UFC 230 billing, the promotion may opt to keep the pair in place if no other viable options present themselves.

There was some doubt as to whether the two would actually face off after Diaz appeared to pull out of the event, but with the bout set to go ahead, many see this as a title eliminator fight for the 155lbs belt.

Former champion Conor McGregor returns to the Octagon at UFC 229 next month in the hopes of winning back his crown against the undefeated Khabib Nurmagomedov.

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In what is one of the most highly anticipated bouts in the history of the UFC, the winner between Poirier and Diaz is likely to propel themselves into a lightweight title contender spot and the carrot of a big-money rematch with McGregor is a realistic possibility for both of these fighters.

Poirier came up short against the Dubliner in 2014 when he was knocked out at UFC 178 in the pair’s featherweight bout.

He has since produced an incredible run of form, picking up just one defeat in his last 10 outings.

Diaz, meanwhile, already boasts a victory over McGregor thanks to a second-round submission in their main event at UFC 196. The rematch at UFC 202 in 2016 was another tight affair, from which McGregor emerged victorious via majority decision.

A trilogy fight with McGregor is certainly a lucrative prospect for the California native and would be the first time the pair fight each other at lightweight, with their other two fights contested in the welterweight division.

Should a search for a main event prove unfruitful for White, he has two entertaining fighters high on confidence already on the card, prepared to go to war.

THE CANADIAN PRESS 2018-07-28 Consecutive victories over Justin Gaethje and former UFC lightweight champion, Eddie Alvarez, have put Dustin Poirier firmly in the picture for a shot at the title. Source: Jeff McIntosh

3) Alexander Gustafsson vs. Jon Jones

Many of the top contenders in the light heavyweight division were no doubt to happy to hear about the return of Jones to the 205lbs division.

Alexander Gustafsson took quickly to Twitter to call out the division’s former champion in the hopes of securing a rematch with Jones.

Jones claimed a decision victory over the Swede back in 2013 and Gustafsson has fought since his knockout victory over Glover Teixeira in May 2017.

White insisted Jones would not be in line for a headline fight for this coming card at MSG, he may jump at the opportunity to thrust Jones back into the spotlight.

A trilogy fight with heavyweight and light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier looks unlikely to present itself in the coming months and ‘DC’ insisted on Fox’s UFC Tonight he is focused on different opponents.

“People get excited about the prospect of us fighting again, but I’ve got a fight with Brock Lesnar,” he said.

“Why would I look back? Why would I look back to Jones now when I’ve got a fight? Obviously, as a competitor, I want to fight the guy that has beat me twice.

“But I’ve got a fight. This is a bigger fight. I’ve got a bigger fight with Brock Lesnar. Why should I go back?”

Cormier is unlikely to entertain a trilogy fight against his bitter rival with a lucrative heavyweight title bout with Brock Lesnar expected to go ahead early next year.

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