Jon Jones finally has a date and opponent for his heavyweight debut – and the best heavyweight in the world is no longer a UFC fighter.
Jones, 35, one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in MMA and the most decorated light heavyweight champion in UFC history, will face one-time title challenger Ciryl Gane on March 4 in the main event for the UFC heavyweight title. UFC 285. UFC President Dana White announced the news Saturday during the UFC Vegas 67 post-fight press conference.
The news means UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou has relinquished his title and is now a free agent, White said. Ngannou captured his title in 2021 with a knockout of Stipe Miocic and defended it in January 2022 with a hard-fought decision over Gane. Since then he has been sidelined while recovering from a knee injury, but will now look for a new home as one of the most coveted free agents to enter the open market in MMA history.
Jones (26-1, 1 NC) is widely regarded as one of the greatest fighters ever. A two-time UFC light heavyweight champion, Jones made 11 title defenses from 2011-20, defeating a slew of all-time greats including Daniel Cormier, Glover Teixeira, Maurício Rua, Quinton Jackson, Lyoto Machida, Rashad Evans, Vitor Belfort, and more .
“Bones” has been sidelined since relinquishing his 205-pound belt in early 2020 ahead of an eventual move to heavyweight. The 6-foot-4 American has been publicly sporting a heavyweight move for more than a decade, but has finally focused on reshaping his body and bulking it up to over 255 pounds in recent years.
Despite his successful results in the cage, “Bones” has been embroiled in many controversies both in and out of the league, including a domestic battery case in late 2021 stemming from an alleged incident in Las Vegas following his UFC Hall of Fame induction for his UFC 165 fight with Alexander Gustafsson.
Gane (11-1) is MMA Fighting’s No. 2 heavyweight in the world. The 32-year-old Frenchman has won eight of his nine UFC appearances, including a wild third-round knockout against Tai Tuivasa in his most recent appearance last September. Gane’s only UFC loss came in a unanimous decision against Ngannou in his first challenge for the UFC title.
UFC 285 takes place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.