SPORTS

Jon Jones, Daniel Cormier exchange words but not blows this time ahead of UFC 182

01/01/2015 06:26 EST | Updated 03/03/2015 05:59 EST
LAS VEGAS, Nev. - Light-heavyweight champion Jon (Bones) Jones and challenger Daniel (DC) Cormier got in each other's grill and exchanged words but avoided blows Thursday in the leadup to UFC 182.

That was an improvement from an August photo-op when the two fighters went after each other and tumbled off a temporary stage in the lobby of the MGM Grand. One security official broke a rib in the brouhaha which led to fines and community service for both fighters.

The two rivals were more civil at a staredown this time in a ballroom at the same hotel, but only just.

Jones (20-1) and Cormier (15-0) were almost nose-to nose, prompting UFC president Dana White to put his arm between the two to separate them.

The fighters exchanged words, with Jones seemingly leading the way. But nothing came of it and White then left the two as they posed shoulder to shoulder before the cameras.

The two stood apart but then started closing the gap and jawing again, prompting White to hastily step in as fans chanted "DC."

According to White, Jones turned up the heat Thursday by telling Cormier he was going to (expletive) "him up so bad."

"And he said 'You're delusional if you think you're going to win this fight,'" added White, whose recollection of the exchange included an F-bomb. "Then it was on."

Leaving the two by themselves was not such a good idea, White acknowledged.

"It was a rookie move," he said. "But it's very rare you can't leave two guys shoulder to shoulder to do the last (pose)."

White said when he got back to the fighters, Cormier was saying "Touch me, just touch me once," adding in his own F-bomb.

White said the true test of self-control will come Friday when the two face off again, this time before a larger crowd at the weigh-in.

"This close to the fight, the mental part, the mind games that these guys play with each other is just as important as everything else. And especially Friday, Friday's the big day. The weigh-in and the stare-off on Friday — today was nothing compared to what's going to happen on Friday."

White said there won't be any extra security at the weigh-in. He will just be vigilant on stepping in between the two as needed.

"My job is to make sure they do not fight before the fight," said White, who was not at the August event that turned into a brawl.

The two fighters have been at odds since their first meeting when Cormier, ranked second among 205-pound contenders, said Jones disrespected him. Jones disputed that view of events, saying Cormier took a joke the wrong way. Still Jones has not shied away from engaging in the war of words, in person and via social media since the matchup was announced in July.

Originally slated for UFC 178 in September, the fight was pushed back when Jones injured his knee in training.

The MGM Grand Garden Arena has yet to sell out although White expects it will score big among fight fans, predicting there will be 750,000 pay-per-view buys.

"A lot of people are talking about this fight. There's a lot of buzz and energy for it," said White. "We're due for one of these because we had a rough year last year. I'm not to sad to see (20)14 go."

Rough because many of the UFC's top draws were on the sidelines due to injury.

Despite the fact that tickets are still available, Saturday's gate is already over US$3 million.

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