It’s been nearly three years since Jon Jones defeated Dominick Reyes via unanimous decision at UFC 247 in February 2020. On Saturday, UFC president Dana White announced that he’s back.
Jones will fight Ciryl Gane at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on March 4 for the heavyweight title. The bout will headline UFC 285. Against Reyes, he defended his light heavyweight championship and since then has been bulking up to take on the heavyweight division in the mixed martial arts promotion.
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The announcement came after the company was unable to strike a new deal with current champion Francis Ngannou. White said he offered Ngannou the richest deal for a heavyweight in UFC history to fight Jones but he turned it down. So White turned to Gane.
“I’ve told you guys this before – if you don’t want to be here, you don’t have to be,” White said, via ESPN. “I think Francis is in a place right now where he doesn’t want to take a lot of risk. He feels like he’s in a good position where he could fight lesser opponents and make more money. We’re going to let him do that, release him from his contract and give up our right to match.”
White had high praise for Jones.
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“Many believe, including me, he’s the best of all time,” White said. “Jon Jones has been ready, willing and able to fight anybody. He didn’t care who it was.”
Jones is 26-1 all time and Gane is 11-1.
“When I started watching this, Jon Jones was one of my favorite fighters,” Gane told reporters at the UFC Vegas 67 post-event press conference, via MMA Fighting. “More when I started MMA, because I’m a fan of every sport in MMA, and when you look at a guy like Jon Jones, who’s well-rounded like this, you really appreciate it. He’s the GOAT. Look at his career.
“Today, I’m a young fighter, and I think it’s the dream of every young fighter to fight against a GOAT. This is really crazy for me.”
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The Jones and Gane bout is the first official match on the UFC 285 card.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.