Former UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones has been teasing a move to heavyweight for the past couple of years. He’s posted training photos and videos of him adding muscle mass and putting on weight. Following UFC 270, he took aim at current UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou. Jones said he drew inspiration from what he saw as a less-than-impressive performance.
“If this is the Apex of heavyweight fighting, I’m excited about it. Got some more records to break,” Jones proclaimed after Ngannou won a five-round unanimous decision over Ciryl Gane.
Known for his knockout power, Ngannou showed a few new elements to his game at UFC 270. Not only does he have power, Ngannou also showed some grappling skill, as well as the endurance to go five rounds.
Dana White wants to book Francis Ngannou vs. Jon Jones UFC heavyweight title fight
UFC president Dana White did not make it to the Octagon to put the belt around Ngannou’s waist, which is customary in UFC championship fights. He also bypassed the post-fight press conference. White clarified why he skipped putting the belt on Ngannou and missed the press conference in an ESPN+ Q&A with fans on Wednesday.
After answering to that issue, White addressed questions about Jones returning from a two-year absence. Fans wanted to know if there had been talks with Jones and the possibility of him challenging Ngannou for the heavyweight title.
“Listen, the heavyweight fight (between Ngannou and Gane) wasn’t a title fight you’re gonna be talking about for years. It wasn’t what I thought it was gonna be. I thought it was gonna be a lot more stand-up. But it was a brilliant game plan by Francis to do what he did the way that he did it,” White commented before addressing the likelihood of Ngannou vs. Jones in 2022.
“I don’t know. I’m hoping that will be one of the big fights this year. If we can pull that one off, we definitely will.”
White added that he rarely talks directly with Jones. He leaves that to matchmakers Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard.
Francis Ngannou surgery and contract dispute may block a Jon Jones bout
Even if Jones announces himself ready to return and the UFC is down to make that fight, it may not come as soon as fans would like. There are several other issues muddying the waters for Ngannou to fight again anytime soon, if ever again in the Octagon.
In the near term, Ngannou said that he went into the UFC 270 headliner opposite Gane with a severe knee injury.
Ngannou’s manager, Marquel Martin, told ESPN on Wednesday that the champion suffered MCL and ACL damage in sparring sessions prior to the Gane bout. Doctors said he needs surgery and would require about nine months for recovery. He will return home to Cameroon, then is expected to undergo surgery upon returning to the United States.
If that weren’t enough, Ngannou is also embroiled in a bitter contract dispute with the UFC. He insists that he has until January of 2023 for his contract to run out. At that point, he could leave the UFC whether or not he ever fights for them again. It doesn’t sound like a situation that will be easily resolved. Ngannou was outspoken about the issue in the lead-up to UFC 270 and in his post-fight comments.
“It’s not simply money. Obviously, money is a part of it, but it’s also the term of the contract. I don’t agree with it. I don’t feel like it’s fair,” Ngannou said at the UFC 270 post-fight press conference. “I don’t feel like I’m a free man. I don’t feel like I’ve been treated good.
“At the end of the day, we put a lot of work into this job. We take a lot in our body to make it happen. At least we can happen a fair and square deal.”
These issues may amount to a hurdle too high to clear before making Francis Ngannou vs. Jon Jones for the UFC heavyweight title by the end of 2022.
Francis Ngannou on UFC contract dispute: ‘I don’t feel like I’m a free man’
(Subscribe to MMAWeekly.com on YouTube)