With the bombshell news last night that UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou has officially left the UFC, the promotion have immediately revealed their plan to restore order to the division by announcing the return of Jon Jones to fight Ciryl Gane for the vacant title at UFC 285 in Las Vegas on March 4th.
“This is for the official heavyweight title,” White confirmed regarding Jones vs Gane at the UFC Fight Night 217 post-fight press conference after confirming that Ngannou was leaving the UFC with immediate effect after failing to come to terms with the promotion over a new deal.
Jones himself has since also spoken out about the deal being signed after a training session with former UFC double-champ Henry Cejudo.
“Day one of four, just a few weeks out from my first heavyweight championship against Ciryl Gane,” Jones stated from Cejudo’s camp in Pheonix, adding that, “I’m glad I did come out here. Henry is just so intelligent, and such a great leader and tactician. It’s just been great, it’s been a really great trip so far.”
It’s a moment MMA fans have waited almost three years for, since Jones vacated the light-heavyweight title back in February of 2020 after a decision win over Dominick Reyes and then vowed to move up to heavyweight.
With Jones on an 18-fight unbeaten run and with 11 successful 205lb title defenses under his belt, he was widely considered one of the greatest fighters of all-time, and as such everyone was eager to see how he’d fare at heavyweight.
Unfortunately it’s taken far longer than anyone expected for it to come to fruition, with ‘Bones’ initially taking a lengthy spell out in a bid to bulk up correctly for the new challenge ahead of him, then demanding more money from the UFC to make the move up, followed by a further long spell in limbo as his intended first opponent, heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou, went through his own protracted negotiations with the UFC over a new deal that finally came to an end with his dramatic exit from the promotion last night.
The now 35-year-old Jones faces a formidable foe in Ciryl Gane in his bid to become heavyweight champion, as the former interim champ is an uncommonly technical striker and good athlete for the weight class who holds an 11-1 record to date.
So it’s a major challenge for Jones after such a lengthy layoff, but he has a career resume that’s second-to-none and after watching a pure striker like Ngannou manage to expose major wrestling deficiencies in Gane’s game back in January of last year, he may well fancy his chances of doing likewise.
Jones vs. Gane provides the missing piece of the puzzle for the UFC 285 event, which has been waiting for a headliner for some time now, and will front a card that also features Geoff Neal vs. Shavkat Rakhmonov, Derek Brunson vs. Dricus du Plessis, Cody Garbrandt vs. Julio Arce, Amanda Ribas vs. Viviane Araujo and Bo Nickal vs. Jamie Pickett.