Conor McGregor's hopes of topping the bill at UFC 200 look to be all but over after confirmation that the eagerly awaited rematch between fierce rivals Jon Jones and light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier will headline the showpiece event on Saturday 9 July at T-Mobile Arena. 'The Notorious' was initially supposed to be the star attraction once again as he sought to step back up to welterweight and avenge his second-round loss to Nate Diaz in March, but was pulled from the card last week amid a row over his promotional obligations.
McGregor initially posted a cryptic tweet suggesting that he had retired early from the sport, before UFC president Dana White explained that the decision had been made due to his reluctance to disrupt a training camp in Iceland in order to travel to Las Vegas.
The outspoken 27-year-old, who became featherweight champion with his 13-second destruction of Jose Aldo in December 2015, subsequently released a long statement in which he claimed to have got "lost in the game of promotion and forgot about the art of fighting". He later returned to social media to announce that he was back on the bill, yet those claims were swiftly dismissed by White.
Jones' second meeting with Cormier has been a long time coming. 'Bones', who tested positive for benzoylecgonine in January 2015, provided the eighth successful defence of his title with a heated unanimous decision victory back at UFC 182 before being stripped and suspended indefinitely after allegedly fleeing the scene of an accident. He later pleaded guilty to a felony charge in New Mexico and was granted a conditional discharge with supervised probation of up to 18 months.
That ban saw his scheduled bout with Anthony Johnson cancelled. Cormier subsequently picked up the vacant belt with a third-round submission of the same man at UFC 187. The former wrestler retained his crown against Alexander Gustafsson last October and was due to face his nemesis again in the main event of UFC 197 last weekend, before being forced to withdraw due to a torn ligament in his lower leg suffered during practice sparring. Jones eventually took on Ovince Saint Preux and easily won his first bout in 15 months to become the interim champion.
Responding to the announcement via Instagram, Cormier said: "Yesssss! Let's go. I've been wanting this. @ufc 100. I hadn't decided to even fight yet. Now I'm defending my belt at biggest event in history. After what I saw last weekend. This will be light work. #bumjones #andstill."
Elsewhere at UFC 200, former pound-for-pound king Aldo will face Frankie Edgar to determine the number one contender for McGregor's featherweight strap. Miesha Tate will also put the women's bantamweight belt up against Brazil's Amanda Nunes.