Part of what has made the Ultimate Fighting Championship one of the fastest-growing sports entities in the world is that it gives its fans the fights they want to see. Even when there's resistance, UFC president Dana White and company CEO Lorenzo Fertitta often get the deal done -- and that's what they did with a rematch between Jon "Bones" Jones and Alexander Gustafsson.
During the post-fight press conference of UFC 172 April 26, after his record seventh title defense against Glover Teixeira, UFC light heavyweight champion Jones refused to field any questions from the media about his next fight -- and up until June 6, he still wasn't talking.
Many had presumed Jones' next defense would be a rematch against No. 1 contender Gustafsson, and UFC officials had all but booked the fight for August. Although Gustaffson was ready and willing, it initially appeared that Jones had plans of his own.
"Just to clear up a couple things, people think we're in contract negotiations with Jon Jones -- we're not," White told UFC.com in May. "Jon Jones still has five fights on his contract.
"So, what we're doing right now is trying to get him to sign the bout agreement for Gustafsson. He doesn't want to fight Gustafsson. … He's asking to fight [Daniel] Cormier instead."
Jones (20-1) and Gustafsson (16-2) fought at UFC 165 in September 2013, and some contend it was the greatest title fight in UFC history. Jones won the decision, but it wasn't nearly the one-sided contest most had expected.
Gustafsson took the fight to Jones, and at the end of five rounds, some people were questioning the judges' scorecards. Since then, both fighters have fought and won: Gustafsson defeated Jimi Manuwa (14-1) via TKO at UFC Fight Night 37, and Jones defeated Teixeira (22-3) via unanimous decision at UFC 172.
Meanwhile, Cormier defeated a future UFC Hall of Famer in Dan Henderson during the co-main event of UFC 173 May 24. After a highlight-reel performance against Henderson, Cormier -- a former U.S. Olympic wrestler -- went so far as to call out Jones.
"Jon Jones, you can't run away from me forever," Cormier told the sold-out MGM Grand Garden Arena. "I'm the kid in your wrestling tournament that's always in your bracket. No matter where you go, boy, I'm coming. You better hurry because I'm getting better."
With his latest win, Cormier improved his record to 4-0 in the UFC and 15-0 during his career. He is currently ranked No. 2 in the UFC's light heavyweight division.
Negotiations between the UFC and Jones had appeared to grow cold until the two sides met in Las Vegas June 5. By the next morning, the fight was booked for UFC 178 Sept. 27.
"I didn't want to go this early, and I would have preferred to go later in October or November," Jones told UFC.com following the announcement. "It is what it is. We have a date now, Sept. 27. This was a personal decision for me. I will be at my brother's wedding and have a proper training camp."
Although Jones said he still thought Cormier was the tougher fighter, he and White both agreed that the rematch against Gustaffsson was the people's choice.
"This is the fight the fans want to see," White told UFC.com. "The great thing about this is we get Jones versus Gustafsson and, if Jones beats Gustafsson, we get Jones versus Cormier. Two great fights in the light heavyweight division with three of the baddest guys in the world."
The Fight Card
June 20: Legacy Fighting Championship 32 -- Bossier City, La.
June 21: World Series of Fighting 10 -- Las Vegas, Nev.
June 28: UFC Fight Night 43 -- Auckland, New Zealand
June 28: UFC Fight Night 44 -- San Antonio, Texas
July 5: World Series of Fighting 11 -- Daytona Beach, Fla.
July 5: UFC 175 -- Las Vegas, Nev.
July 6: "The Ultimate Fighter" season 19 finale -- Las Vegas, Nev.