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Jon Jones denies PED use when test knocks him out of UFC 200

Jon Jones has denied using any performance-enhancing substances after a positive drug test knocked him out of the main event at Saturday’s UFC 200.

The UFC interim light heavyweight champion broke into tears at a hastily arranged news conference Thursday, a day after his rematch with Daniel Cormier was canceled.

“I would never take anything that would enhance my game,” Jones said. “Being labeled as someone who would ever cheat, it hurts me more than anything I’ve ever been through in my career.”

Jones’ manager, Malki Kawa, said the fighter was informed of a possible PED violation by USADA, which administers the UFC’s anti-drug policy. They’ve asked USADA to test Jones’ backup sample, and Kawa hopes to get the results later Thursday, although he has little hope the result will change.

Jones and Kawa declined to name the substance for which Jones was flagged, although Kawa said it “could be” related to a nutritional supplement.

Jones said he “can’t even pronounce it. I’ve never even heard of it.”

The long-reigning champion briefly left the stage at his news conference after being overcome with emotion.

Jones said he has been taking the same supplements for most of his career, and he has no idea why his June 16 test would yield a violation after he passed seven other doping tests this year. Although Jones had endured numerous public embarrassments due to his apparent use of recreational drugs, he has been a vocal opponent of performance-enhancing substances in mixed martial arts.

“You can say whatever you want about Jon over the years,” Kawa said. “For the last year, he’s done nothing but try his best to live his life right, to eat right, to do the right things, and obviously not to be in this type of predicament. He’s been very outspoken about this stuff. … He didn’t cheat at all.”

Jones, who turns 29 years old later this month, could face a multiyear suspension for a doping violation. He has fought just four times since September 2013.

“If I do have to sit out for two years, I’ll definitely be back,” Jones said. “I’m already thinking about the good that can happen. I try to stay optimistic. At the end of the day, I’m a fighter, and even though I may seem broken up here, I’m not broken. I’m just really upset.”

Jones is widely considered the world’s top pound-for-pound mixed martial artist, but he has endured numerous troubles of his own making in recent years.

He has failed drug tests around two of his last three fights, testing positive for cocaine use shortly before beating Cormier in their first meeting in January 2015. He was allowed to fight because the detected cocaine metabolite was not banned for out-of-competition use by the Nevada Athletic Commission.

A few months later, Jones was suspended by the UFC and had his 205-pound title stripped due to his involvement in a hit-and-run accident in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where the upstate New York native lives and trains.

Jones is still on probation stemming from that incident, but he doesn’t believe a positive doping test would impact it.

Cormier won the light heavyweight title during Jones’ UFC suspension, which was lifted in October 2015. After Cormier pulled out of their first scheduled rematch with a foot injury, Jones returned to competition in April with a victory over Ovince Saint Preux.

Jones cried openly when asked what he would say to Cormier, his longtime rival and frequent verbal sparring partner. The UFC is attempting to book a late replacement bout for Cormier, but the light heavyweight champion is likely to miss out on millions in salary and pay-per-view revenue from the promotion’s biggest show of the summer.

“I know this fight meant a lot to him,” Jones said. “The fight meant a lot to me. … I know some good will come from this, but right now it’s hard to see it.”

Brock Lesnar’s heavyweight bout with Mark Hunt is UFC 200’s new main event at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Lesnar’s much-anticipated return from a 4 1/2-year MMA absence was previously the penultimate bout on the star-studded pay-per-view card assembled by the UFC for its biggest event of the summer.

(Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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