Jon Jones has hinted at an Octagon return on social media.

Shocking, we know.

Having taken a plea deal and avoided jail time, the reality is that the former light heavyweight champion Jones will return to action sooner rather than later. The question is, do you give the champion — who was never defeated for his title, but was rather stripped of the belt after embarrassing himself; hitting a pregnant woman’s car and injuring her while driving while intoxicated and fleeing the scene — an immediate shot at his old belt?

It would seem like an obvious choice, only it isn’t. And that’s because in his absence, the light heavyweight division was wide open. New contenders emerged. Simply going back to the way things were, or risking it, might not be the best course of action.

Here’s why: while Jones has been away, Daniel Cormier became champion by defeating (and finishing for that matter) the imposing Anthony Johnson, who Jones had been scheduled to face. Johnson would get back on track with a win of his own, while Alexander Gustafsson would give Cormier the fight of his life for Cormier’s first title defense. Meanwhile, Ryan Bader, the man Jones defeated ever so long ago to obtain his first title shot, has added yet another victory to the most impressive run of his career, this time a well-earned decision win over former champion Rashad Evans.

For those who claim Bader’s style to be boring, as if that somehow makes his title contention any less valid, consider that at least a couple of the decisions in his current win streak have been dominant, and that his fight against Anthony Perosh might easily have been stopped at several points throughout. For those questioning the quality of competition, well, recognize that along with Evans, Bader has also defeated former Strikeforce champ Rafael Cavalcante, and the man who will challenge for Bellator’s light heavyweight title next, Phil Davis.

It would be easy to go back to the Jones show. Yet with the likes of Bader, Johnson, and even Glover Teixeira slowly getting back on track, is there a need to? That’s not to say that Jones shouldn’t fight — but rather that a better options than immediately matching him up with Cormier again might be to have him test the waters at heavyweight, or to line up a superfight of some sort for him.

It would be risky — a loss would immediately take some of the shine off his return — but it would be much more interesting than returning to the status quo.

Don’t like those ideas? Then how about allowing Bader to have the next title shot, which he deserves, and pair Jones up with Johnson. They were supposed to fight in the Spring, and it would be one hell of a title elimination.

At the very least the UFC should be thinking outside the box on this one.

About The Author

Senior Staff Writer

Covering the sport of MMA from Ontario, Canada, Jay Anderson has been writing for various publications covering sports, technology, and pop culture since 2001. Jay holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Guelph, and a Certificate in Leadership Skills from Humber College under the Ontario Management Development Program. When not slaving at the keyboard, he can be found in the company of his dog, a good book, or getting lost in the woods.