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Thiago Santos discusses LHW title picture amidst Jones’ legal issues: ‘I don’t think the division needs to wait’

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Even though Jon Jones is avoiding jail time after reaching a plea deal for his most recent arrest, his future in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) remains unclear at this time.

That’s not to say that UFC will release Jones and let him take his legendary talents to another MMA promotion, but it’s safe to say that the UFC light heavyweight champion could face some punishment from the promotion in the near future. That may include Jones being stripped of his light heavyweight title — which is exactly what happened in 2015 after his hit-and-run incident — but we’re simply speculating at this time.

If this recent DWI arrest is enough for UFC to boot Jones from the 205-pound throne then the promotion will need to figure out the next step for the division. That is when the attention will be turned on former title challenger Thiago Santos, who has already suggested a title fight between himself and Dominick Reyes as Jones deals with his current legal issues.

“I suggested this fight with Reyes in case (Jones) steps away to get treatment, like he said,” Santos told MMA Fighting. “I don’t think the division needs to wait. The division can go on, even if it’s for an interim belt between Reyes and I, since we both are next in line. Fans were already talking about this fight even before this Jones situation happened, and I said I was willing to fight Reyes, and then Jones fights the winner when he returns.”

While Jones was extremely cooperative with the arresting officers (see the body cam footage HERE) and offered his deepest apologies after the incident, this is yet another instance in which the legendary UFC fighter has lost a battle to alcohol outside of the cage. Nobody is perfect in this world but Jones needs to be held at a higher standard given his championship status and global notoriety.

“It’s unfortunate – it’s sad,” Santos said of Jones. “I never hid that I’m a fan of the guy even before we fought, and that hasn’t changed. Unfortunately he has those problems with alcohol, he posted a statement about it, and those are problems he has to fix. You can’t overlook that, but also can’t throw rocks at him. It’s only up to him. We hope he solves that problem with alcohol and recovers.”

If UFC feels it’s appropriate to temporarily suspend Jones as he works though his addiction to alcohol they may end of stripping him of his belt again. Nobody knows for sure if that’s what the premier MMA organization wants to do — considering Jones is one of UFC’s biggest draws — but Santos will be waiting in the wings if the time comes to fight for an interim or vacant light heavyweight belt.

“It’s UFC’s decision,” Santos said. “I’m here to fight if they need and call me.”

Should Jones get stripped and leave the division open for a new ruler it makes sense to turn to Santos and Reyes, who were both narrowly defeated by Jones in the champ’s last two defenses. Surging light heavyweight contender Jan Blachowicz would also have a chance to enter the mix, but “Marreta” and “Devastator” seem like best bet at this point in time.

“I think it would be a great fight, belt or not,” Santos said. “(Reyes is) a great fighter. He surprised me last time against Jones, he was aggressive and went for it. He showed the great fighter he is, and I love facing challenges. He’s a young, fearless guy that comes forward, and that would be a great fight.”

What say you, Maniacs? If Jones is sidelined should UFC book Santos vs. Reyes for the interim/vacant title?

Let’s hear it!