Dana White knew the UFC would take some big hits, financial and otherwise, when he moved its traditional end-of-the-year show from Las Vegas to Southern California on six days' notice to keep Jon Jones on the card despite his latest positive drug test.

Some hits are more damaging than others, however. According to White, UFC 232 is going to sell out the famous Forum this afternoon, even though tickets went on sale only on Thursday.

That's a statement on Los Angeles' passion for mixed martial arts, but it's mostly a testament to the quality of a show that compelled fans to travel to Vegas - and then about 400km more to LA.

UFC 232 is headlined by Jones' return to the sport in a rematch with Alexander Gustafsson for the light heavyweight title. The penultimate bout is featherweight champion Cris "Cyborg" Justino's superfight with bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes in perhaps the best match-up in women's MMA history.


The big-name undercard includes former UFC champions BJ Penn, Carlos Condit and Andrei Arlovski, along with former title contenders Chad Mendes and Cat Zingano.

With such an irresistible slate of fights, the UFC is closing out the year with style - even if it's under weird circumstances for the fans and fighters.

"It's not an easy decision to make," White said. "You've got to pull the trigger and you've got to make moves. You're not going to make everybody happy. You can't make every fan, every fighter happy. We did everything we could to make it better."

Not every fighter will agree after getting a reduced payment due to California's state income tax. White flatly said the UFC won't compensate the fighters for any lost income due to the move.

But the pay-per-view audience still gets a stacked show headlined by the first fight in nearly 18 months for Jones (22-1), the self-sabotaging superstar who tested positive for low levels of an anabolic steroid earlier this year.

The result isn't considered a failed doping test by the US Anti-Doping Agency, but the Nevada Athletic Commission wanted a hearing on the matter next month. Its California counterpart had no such qualms, prompting the UFC's move.

Jones has made innumerable mistakes outside the octagon but that bad boy persona combined with his brute brilliance in competition has made him irresistible to many fight fans. According to Jones, some root for his success, while others yearn for his failure with similar passion - but both camps buy his fights.

Jones, 31, reclaimed his light heavyweight title in July 2017 with a win over Daniel Cormier, only to lose it to another failed doping test.


"I was hated, and turning it all off is the easy way to deal with it," said the 31-year-old Jones, who is fighting for only the third time in nearly four years of his athletic prime.

He returns to fight Gustafsson (18-4), who provided Jones with the toughest fight of his life in 2013. Jones won the decision but was battered and humbled by the Swede.

Gustafsson has stewed over the loss for years and was infuriated by Jones' latest doping troubles. He labelled Jones a cheat and vowed to make the former champion "eat everything he says".

"You put illegal stuff in your body, but it won't help you this time," Gustafsson said. "I'm ready to end this. I've learned how to dig deeper."

- AP