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Jon Jones knows he can't convince skeptics he's innocent after failed drug test

Jon Jones might be virtually undefeated in the Octagon, but he still knows impossible odds when he sees them.

And right now, Jones (22-1) knows any attempt to plead his innocence to the UFC's fan base will likely fall flat. The former champion is facing steroid accusations from the public after a recent drug test showed a minute amount of steroid metabolite in his system.

Although the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) have cleared Jones to face Alexander Gustafsson for the light heavyweight championship on Saturday, the accusations have carried on.

Jones, 31, has maintained his innocence in the matter, and says he won't let it distract him from his first appearance in 18 months.

"I think my trying to prove any type of innocence is going to be virtually impossible before the fight, because of the controversial image I have," Jones told ESPN. "People are kind of set in what they're going to believe. I can't win over many minds before the fight."

Jones has previously failed (and served suspensions for) two drug tests, which has cast a shadow over one of the greatest resumes in the sport's history. In both cases however -- 2016 and 2017 -- USADA ultimately ruled Jones' positive tests were not the result of intentional doping.

USADA and CSAC ruled this latest result was likely caused by a long-lasting metabolite of the same substance Jones tested positive for last year and has provided no performance-enhancing benefit.

The state of Nevada, where this weekend's fight was supposed to be held, couldn't clear Jones in time for UFC 232, so the UFC moved the event California.

Jones acknowledged this week has "been a nightmare" following the announcement of that atypical test, but said he feels personally comfortable with the result.

"Even the scientists that found it, don't know much about it," said Jones, on the metabolite in his system. "I'm hearing reports this s--- could live in my system for seven years. I've learned to say, 'You know what Jon? You know in your heart you did nothing wrong.' If I took another polygraph test and answered the question, 'Have you ever knowingly put this in your system?' I could confidently say, 'No, I never knowingly put this in my system.' And it would be a true statement.

"I just have to surrender to people's opinions. I gotta surrender to the ignorance our sport is surrounded by. I gotta surrender to the fact most people will never pick up a book and do homework for themselves. I gotta surrender to it all and say, 'Listen Jon, you've had a controversial career. You're fun for people to pick at. You're fun for people to talk about. If you are part of anything that's not positive, it's going to be huge news.'

"I have to be 100 percent confident in knowing I didn't do anything wrong."

One thing Jones said he has felt genuinely bad about, however, is the need to relocate the event. Jones was in Las Vegas on Wednesday, and said he spent the day apologizing to other fighters on the UFC 232 card who were affected.

He also announced on Instagram a last-minute autograph signing at his hotel for any fans who traveled to Las Vegas to see the fight. Afterward, he posted a thanks to those who attended.

"I had to really speed up my healing on this, but I understand there are fans out there who aren't healed and lost some serious money," Jones said. "I've almost had to bury my emotions and deal with them after the fight, but I will try to make it better for the fans after the fight."