February 8 (2nd month) 2020. That date was the last time we saw Jon Jones in the cage, at least for now. One of the greatest fighters in the history of MMA at that time defeated Dominick Reyes by a rather controversial decision and made his 11th overall title defense in the light heavyweight division.
Not long after, Jones abdicated the light heavyweight throne and announced a move to heavyweight. He talked about it back in 2013, but many thought better late than never. It was believed that Jones could take a maximum of a year to put on a few pounds of muscle mass, but we are still waiting for Jones’ heavyweight debut, although it is now 1/15/2023.
There were rumors that Jones would soon return, and there were rumors about matches against Francis Ngannou and Stipe Miocic, but it seems that the whole “soap opera” has come to an end and that Jones will soon make his real debut among the heavyweights. A lot happened last night regarding the unfolding of this story, so let’s start in order.
The people in charge of advertising at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas were all “hot”. In that hall, an advertisement for the UFC 285 event scheduled for March 4 (3rd month) appeared, with Jon Jones and Cyril Gane in the main roles.
For what it’s worth, two different photos of this UFC 285 billboard are circulating.
Jones vs. Gane for the heavyweight championship at UFC 285 would be incredible. pic.twitter.com/3aieyynDdk
— Aaron Bronsteter (@aaronbronsteter) January 14, 2023
This was already a very good sign that Jones had a match scheduled, and soon Ariel Helwani announced himself as one of the most reliable sources in the world of MMA. Ariel clarified that Jones was supposed to debut on December 10 (the 12th month), but the UFC decided to wait for Ngannou until the third month. Negotiations with Ngannou and his new contract did not go well, and Stipe Miočić jumped out as the next most likely option.
The UFC and Miocic also did not agree on Helwani, and that’s where Cyril Gane came in. Helwani stated in his address that it is not yet a 100% certain information, but right after the UFC Fight Night 217 event ended, we got all the confirmations.
— Ciryl Gane (@ciryl_gane) January 15, 2023
Dana White confirmed the fight between Cyril Gane and Jon Jones at the UFC 286 event scheduled for March 4. Gane and Jones will fight for the heavyweight championship. Yes, you read that right, it won’t be a match for the interim champion, but for the vacant heavyweight title. So what about Francis Ngannou then? That may be even bigger news than Jones’ debut.
“We will fire Francis Ngannou. We give up our rights to him and he can go wherever he wants,” said Dana White at a press conference.
This is truly incredible news and a huge blow to the UFC. Ever since the beginning of 2022, Francis Ngannou has emphasized that he will not sign a new contract with the UFC, until they allow him a trip to the boxing waters. The UFC was not ready to allow him boxing appearances, and perhaps they did not even agree on financial terms. Thus, the UFC was left without a “royal” heavyweight champion.
It will now be very interesting to see how the UFC recovers from such a blow to its reputation, and it will also be interesting to see where Francis Ngannou ends up. A boxing match against Tyson Fury is a much more realistic option now that Ngannou is not under contract with the UFC, but the “Predator” will certainly sign a contract with one of the big MMA organizations.
A truly incredible night in the UFC, but the conclusion is that Jon Jones is finally returning to the cage and on March 4 (the third month) he will headline the UFC 285 event. Cyril Gane will be his opponent, and the winner will become the new UFC heavyweight champion.
Francis Ngannou is no longer the UFC Heavyweight Champion, nor is he a UFC fighter at all.