Former UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones has been out of action since February 2020, and with a logjam currently at heavyweight, UFC 266 could produce a compelling match-up for “Bones” to consider for his return fight.
UFC 266 takes place September 25 at 10 p.m. Eastern time at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. It will air as a pay-per-view on ESPN+.
The last time Jones graced the Octagon was in a 205-pound championship title defense against Dominick Reyes at UFC 247. It was a hard-fought battle for Bones, but he edged the scorecards, winning a unanimous decision over “The Devastator.” After the fight, there was a lot of chatter in the MMA community about Reyes receiving an immediate rematch because of how close he came to dethroning Jones.
Also, a fight between Bones and Jan Blachowicz was on the table as the Polish fighter earned a devastating KO over Corey Anderson the week after Jones defeated Reyes.
However, neither of those fights happened.
Later in 2020, Jones announced he was vacating the light heavyweight strap and moving to heavyweight. Reyes and Blachowicz fought for Bones’ vacant belt and the latter used his patented “Polish power” to become champion, finishing The Devastator by second-round TKO at UFC 253 in September 2020.
Jones Has Been Bulking Up to Compete at Heavyweight Ever Since & Plans to Fight in 2022
Since he announced the move north of 205 pounds, Bones has been preparing his body to take on the bigger men at heavyweight. And although it seemed like Bones was ready to debut this year, he’s seemingly pushed it back until 2022.
In May 2021, Jones tweeted that he wanted to take another year to get ready, saying that rushing back into the cage would only benefit his opposition.
“Honestly I feel like the only people that it benefits, me jumping in their early are the other heavy weights,” Jones tweeted. “The way I’m training, I’m gonna be a real problem this time next year. I’m comfortable enough to wait and that’s exactly what I’ll do.”
A fan responded to Bones’ tweet, confirming with the former light heavyweight king if he was planning to take “another full year out” of action.
“Yes, I got a feeling you guys will still be around,” Jones answered. “The sport should be bigger than ever by then.. Always looking on the bright side.”
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Heavyweight Is at a Standstill Until Francis Ngannou & Ciryl Gane Unify the Title
There are two heavyweight fighters that own UFC gold right now, champion Francis Ngannou and interim champion Ciryl Gane. Although the UFC has proven at times that anything can happen, for example creating the interim heavyweight belt only a few months after “The Predator” Ngannou won the undisputed title, it is highly likely that Ngannou and Gane will fight next to unify the belt.
But it’s unclear when the two will fight. And with Stipe Miocic, who many consider the heavyweight GOAT, campaigning for an immediate title shot as well, Jones’ position at heavyweight is uncertain. And if takes longer than he hopes to get things moving in his new weight class, he may elect to take a fight to get his feet wet again, considering he’ll have been sidelined for a meaningful amount of time.
And a name that could give Jones a good fight, as well as a manageable introduction to the heavyweight division, is the winner of the UFC 266 showdown between No. 4-ranked Curtis Blaydes and No. 6 Jairzinho Rozenstruik.
Blaydes vs. Rozenstruik Will Battle on the PPV Main Card
The two heavyweight fighters will meet in a featured bout on the pay-per-view main card of UFC 266 on September 25, 2021. Blaydes is 4-1 in his last five fights with the lone loss coming earlier in February 2021 when he fought Derrick Lewis during UFC Vegas 19. Blaydes was knocked out in the second round and he’ll look to rebound from that title-derailing defeat by taking out “Bigi Boy” later this month.
Rozenstruik rebounded from his loss to Gane in February 2021 by dominating Augusto Sakai, beating him via first-round TKO in June 2021 at UFC Vegas 28. Bigi Boy is 2-2 in his last four fights.
This is an important test for both fighters as the loser will fall further down the rankings and the winner will make a case to get another big fight to move up the ladder. And it couldn’t get much bigger than fighting Jones. The winner will likely have to cut some sort of promo, or have an impressive performance to really incentivize Jones to fight them.
But the winner will be hovering near the top contender spot, so a fight with Jones is not out of the question.
Rozenstruik Said Jones Is a Fight ‘I’m Not Going to Avoid’
Heavy spoke with Rozenstruik ahead of his fight with Ciryl Gane at UFC Vegas 20 and he was asked about the potential of fighting Bones. Rozenstruik said he wouldn’t shy away from fighting the No. 1-ranked pound-for-pound fighter in the promotion.
“By fighting against one of the best in the world, you know where you stand,” Bigi Boy said. “So, that’s not a fight I’m going to avoid. That’s a fight you have to be ready for and that’s why I want to keep fighting, doing my thing, developing and when one of the biggest fights comes you want to be ready, because you want to win that one.”
Rozenstruik also admitted that he wouldn’t have an issue if Bones received an immediate title shot, even though Bigi Boy has been grinding at heavyweight for the last few years.
“I have no problem with [Jones] skipping the line to get the title shot,” Rozenstruik said.
And Rozenstruik said that if he ends up inside the Octagon with Jones, he knows he’ll “have to be ready to stop him.”
“We haven’t seen the man at heavyweight yet, but that doesn’t mean he’s lost his skills,” Rozenstruik said. “Jon Jones is the kind of fighter who is going to look for everything to finish the fight. So, you have to be ready for when that time comes, you have to be ready to stop him.”