- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 27, 2016

NEW YORK (AP) - UFC replaced its canceled Conor McGregor fight for another rematch, Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier for the light heavyweight title at UFC 200.

UFC officials announced the replacement main event on Wednesday, several days after Jones beat Ovince Saint Preux by decision in his first fight since he had his title stripped in 2015.

The move solidifies the stance taken by the mixed martial arts giant and its president, Dana White, as McGregor tried to sidestep promotional commitments leading up to the event.

McGregor - a colorful star known for spectacular knockouts, drawing power and trash talk - declined to attend a news conference last week in Las Vegas to promote his rematch with Nate Diaz. McGregor stirred fans with several tweets, first saying he was retired, then explaining his desire to focus on training, then saying he was back on to fight at UFC 200.

White and the UFC officials debunked that with the Jones-Cormier announcement.

“The Conor thing has been crazy,” White said.

McGregor might be the bigger star but Jones-Cormier should be the better fight.

Jones (22-1) had his interim championship belt with him and Cormier (17-1) had the real deal at a Wednesday press conference at Madison Square Garden.

Jones kept his sunglasses on for a civil staredown with Cormier. They brawled during a promotional event in the MGM Grand casino lobby in August 2014 months before their first fight. Both fighters were fined and slapped with community service by the Nevada State Athletic Commission and Jones later lost his endorsement deal with Nike for his role in the fight, one of several personal missteps for the one-time pound-for-pound best fighter in UFC.

Jones defeated Cormier via unanimous decision at UFC 182 in January 2015.

Jones was considered the most dominant champion in MMA until his turbulent personal life knocked him out of the cage. He was involved in an April 2015 hit-and-run crash in Albuquerque, New Mexico that hospitalized a pregnant motorist. He pleaded guilty in September to a charge of leaving the scene of an accident involving injury. He was ordered last month take anger management and driver improvement classes and do more community service for violating his probation. He was accused of drag racing in downtown Albuquerque, not far from his gym. He was issued five traffic citations but has denied the allegations.

He returned to unanimously outpoint Saint Preux in a lackluster bout to claim the interim belt last weekend at UFC 197.

“After what I saw last weekend. This will be light work,” Cormier posted on Instagram.

Jones said his mother had a leg amputed because of diabetes and that, along with a jail stint, affected his preparation.

“Everyone’s talking about my performance being so bad. I got punched twice. I won by unanimous decision,” he said. “It’s like, if that’s a bad performance, then look at the level people expect from me. It’s really not a bad problem to have. I went out there, I didn’t feel comfortable in the octagon, and I still absolutely dominated that fight.”

His legal woes were part of a string of incidents that have marred what should have been UFC’s big celebration leading up to the July 9 card in Las Vegas.

McGregor stole the headlines with his retirement tease and later accusations that UFC refused to lighten his promotional load for the fight. McGregor did not attend the press conference.

“Listen, Conor’s going to fight again. He’s going to fight at UFC 201, 202, 203, whatever the deal might be,” White said. “But (UFC) 200 is the fight everybody’s been looking to for a long time. It is what it is. The show’s going to roll, and Conor will fight again.”

White said he expected McGregor and Diaz would eventually have a rematch.

“Conor asked to fight Nate Diaz. Conor wants to fight Nate Diaz. . Conor doesn’t back down from fights, man. One of the things that’s made Conor popular and as big as he is is this dude wants to fight,” White said. “Conor is fun. Conor is a stud. I have a lot of respect for Conor. Conor and I just had a - you have to show up and do the PR. You have to.”

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