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Former UFC exec recounts Jon Jones-Daniel Cormier press conference brawl - ‘It reminded me of a car accident’

Remember when this happened? Insanely enough, that press conference brawl back in 2014 between Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier went down before the two light heavyweight elites ever stepped inside of the Octagon against one another. Nearly three years later and Jones and Cormier are ready to do battle inside of the cage for a second time tonight (Sat., July 29, 2017) at UFC 214 live on pay-per-view (PPV) from inside Honda Center in Anaheim, California.

In effort to ready ourselves for the most-anticipated rematch in UFC history, we must take a look back at the brawl that started it all (which can be seen above courtesy of UFC). Luckily enough, the man that stood in the middle of a swinging Jones and tumbling Cormier during UFC 178’s pre-fight press conference at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino lobby recently sat down to divulge his recap of the incident.

“I didn’t have the feeling it was going to become as volatile as it became,” Dave Sholler, former UFC Vice President of Public Relations, Athlete Marketing and Development, recently told MMA Junkie. “It didn’t feel to me like any other press conference, other than that I was excited for the fight itself. I just knew it was going to be electric, I knew that there was bad blood. But quite frankly, when you talk about Chuck (Liddell) and Tito (Ortiz) and Randy (Couture) and some of those big fights, there’s been bad blood in the UFC before. The UFC sells best when there’s bad blood.”

To say the least, Sholler didn’t see it coming. While the former PR head explained how the atmosphere was “energetic” prior to the press conference, he didn’t expect anything to pop off between Jones and Cormier. Instead, Sholler would have guessed that something was going to happen between UFC 178 counterparts Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier.

“If you had to ask me, if you put me on the spot and said, ‘Who’s throwing you off the stage today?,’ I would’ve said Conor and Dustin, not those two,” Sholler said. “And it was only because with Jon, and with Daniel, they’d both been at that level of intense before. They know how to sell the fight. But I didn’t expect it to get physical like that.

“There was a side of Daniel Cormier you saw that day and you thought, ‘That’s not the same guy. This is wiring him differently.'”

Sholler, who has since left UFC to work for the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, wasn’t expected to be on stage that day. UFC president Dana White usually handles that type of stuff (and for good reason), but he was forced to miss what became one of the most memorable moments of the Jones vs. Cormier rivalry.

“I had, before that time, done staredowns with Wanderlei Silva,” Sholler said. “I think I was equipped to know when guys are firing on a different cylinder – although I didn’t have as much experience as Dana being in the center of those things. But the way Jon came across the stage, I’ll never forget going, ‘This doesn’t feel right.’ And then Daniel does the two-handed throat slam, and I said, ‘This is a little bit more than I bargained for today.’

“And it all happened so quickly that I equated it – and I hope this doesn’t sound too far-fetched – but it reminded me of a car accident I had been in, where it happened so quickly I don’t necessarily remember the actions in the middle. The one thing I remember is grabbing Jon Jones by the bicep and for some reason thinking I was going to stop him.”

A lot transpired after that infamous press conference brawl. While an injury to Jones pushed the bout back from UFC 178 to UFC 182, Jones ultimately won handily via unanimous decision. However, “Bones” would later have run-ins with the law and United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), putting a rematch with Cormier on hold and allowing “DC” to run away with the UFC’s light heavyweight crown.

A few more missed opportunities later and we are finally just hours away from the rematch of all rematches. For everything that Jones and Cormier have been put through, self-inflicting or not, Sholler believes the bad blood is only going to help Jones’ chances of defeating Cormier yet again later tonight at UFC 214.

“I think what has happened to Jon, whether it was the legal incidents, or the lawsuit, or just being out of action, I think it’s humanized him a sense that he realizes that none of this is a given,” Sholler said. “None of this is something you can take for granted. A Jon Jones with a professional chip on his shoulder is a scary Jon Jones.”

MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 214 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on FXX at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.