Chuck Liddell may be retired, but he still keeps an eye on the UFC light heavyweight division he once reigned over as king. And while the Hall of Famer has had his own share of disagreements with Jon Jones in the past, Liddell was just as disappointed as anyone to learn about Jones’ disastrous run-in with USADA at UFC 214.
“He’s his own worst enemy,” Liddell said Monday on a special 400th edition of The MMA Hour. “And he was such a great fighter, I don’t know why he decided — it seemed like he decided in his offseason that one time to start using steroids. And obviously he’s got his time in court, I guess, still. I don’t know. But it seems real obvious with his increase in size and stuff. But I don’t know that he needed that, and it just seemed like he got maybe around the wrong people, got around the wrong ideas, and decided he wanted to (use PEDs), and now he’s gotten caught. It’s sad.”
Jones, 30, was stripped of the UFC light heavyweight title last week after testing positive for the anabolic steroid Turinabol in an in-competition drug screening administered the day before his rematch against Daniel Cormier at UFC 214. The situation marked the third time in three years that Jones has been stripped of a UFC title. As a result of the failed test, Jones’ third-round knockout victory over Cormier was reversed into a no contest, and as a multiple-time USADA offender, “Bones” now faces a suspension that could stretch upwards of four years.
While Liddell noted that Jones is still deserving of his due process in the matter, he also sounded unsurprised by Jones’ alleged PED use.
Without mentioning specific dates, Liddell seemed to speculate that Jones first started using banned substances in the year he spent sidelined from the sport between 2015-16, during which Jones adopted a new weight training regime and dramatically increased the muscle mass on his 6’4” frame. In July 2016, before his second fight back from suspension at UFC 200, Jones tested positive for two banned substances — clomiphene and letrozole — which led to his first USADA run-in.
“It looked like there was a huge change in a short period of time, that one break he took,” Liddell said. “It seemed like he grew a lot over that time. So, I don’t know. I seem to think that’s when it started, but I don’t know. He hasn’t come out and said anything. It’s another tainted supplement (for UFC 214), right? So I don’t know. He gets his time in court, we’ll see what happens with that too.”
As a former champion who competed in the era before the UFC-USADA partnership, Liddell admitted that he was “torn” when it came to what should happen with Jones moving forward. Part of Liddell just wants to see Jones fight regardless, however another part of him acknowledges the grave dangers of PED use in combat sports and the need to dissuade cheaters in MMA, even if it takes out some of the sport’s best.
“If you want to stop guys from using performance enhancing drugs, there has to be penalties when you get caught,” Liddell said, “because it’s always going to be a cat and mouse game between guys trying to catch them and guys trying to beat the tests and whatever. So you’ve got to make it cost you if you lose, if you mess up and you get caught. A progressive suspension is what you need. You need to get longer and longer the more times you get caught doing things.
“But I still, I wouldn’t want to see a four-year (suspension for Jones). I still want to see him fight again.”
That being said, Liddell is still a fan of the UFC-USADA relationship and the work the UFC, led by Jeff Novitzky, is doing to clean up the sport.
“I’ve said for a long time, you either have to do something like that, like the USADA thing where you’re trying to catch everybody (if they’re not) doing everything right, or just not worry about it and let guys just train and play and compete,” Liddell said. “So, what do you want to do? It’s one of those things. It’s just like the same thing when they had the exemption, so they could get the TRT exemption. I thought that was ridiculous. I was at an athletic board meeting in California and one guy said it was like getting a doctor’s note to use steroids, and I thought, ‘Well, he’s right.’
“Why are you going to give these guys exemptions and let them use steroids, if you’re not going to just let everybody do it? And, you know, it’s better for the sport if everyone’s clean. Everyone is on a fair playing field. It’s safer for athletes, it’s safer for the fighters — it’s just a safer thing for fighters. So I think the USADA thing is good.”