Jon Jones, probably the greatest fighter of all time, will defend his heavyweight title against Ciryl Gane at UFC 285 on March 4, UFC president Dana White said Saturday.
The news came after the UFC was unable to reach an agreement with its now-former heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou.
Jones will make his first appearance in the Octagon since defending his light heavyweight belt against Dominick Reyes in February 2020. Jones surrendered his title shortly after the fight and immediately hinted at a possible switch to heavyweight.
The UFC and Ngannou discussed a new contract for over two years but were unable to reach an agreement. According to White, the UFC offered Ngannou a contract that would have made him the “highest-paid heavyweight in the company’s history,” but Ngannou, 36, declined. The highest-paid heavyweight in UFC history, according to White, is Brock Lesnar, who retired in 2017.
“As I’ve said before if you don’t want to be here, you don’t have to,” White remarked. “I believe Francis is in a position right now where he does not want to take many risks. He believes he is in a strong position to battle fewer opponents and earn more money. We’ll let him do that, release him from his contract, and waive our right to match.”
Jones (26-1) is largely regarded as the best fighter of all time, with Georges St-Pierre, Khabib Nurmagomedov, and Anderson Silva. At the age of 23, he became the youngest UFC champion of all time in 2011. From 2011 through 2020, he held the light heavyweight belt on and off.
Jones is “ready, willing, and able” to fight any heavyweight, including Ngannou, according to White. Jones mentioned the contest briefly in a video released on social media by Twitter user Michael Wonsover. Jones stated that he hoped former UFC champion and Olympic gold medalist wrestler Henry Cejudo to corner him in the bout, however, Cejudo is also expected to fight in the coming months.
Jones inked a new eight-bout contract with the UFC in addition to the heavyweight title battle, according to White.
Jones was arrested in Las Vegas in September 2021 and charged with the misdemeanour of domestic physical assault and damage or interfering with a car. Jones was in Las Vegas to collect a Hall of Fame honour when he mentioned his upcoming heavyweight debut. Jones later pled guilty to misdemeanour damage of property after the domestic assault allegation was withdrawn.
Gane (11-1) is a former interim heavyweight champion from France. In August 2021, he defeated Derrick Lewis by knockout. In January 2022, he sought to unify the title against Ngannou but fell short in a five-round decision defeat. He most recently defeated Tai Tuivasa in the main event of a UFC Fight Night in September.
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