“Bones” will meet Ciryl Gane for the vacant heavyweight belt as the UFC 285 headliner on March 4 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. The news of the heavyweight title tilt came last weekend when UFC president Dana White announced Francis Ngannou was a free agent, leading to “The Predator” vacating the championship.
Jones hasn’t fought for nearly three years. His last bout took place at UFC 247 in February 2020 when he defended his 205-pound strap against Dominick Reyes via unanimous decision. He vacated the belt that summer and announced he was moving north to the heavyweight division. For Gane, he bounced back from his losing effort to dethrone Francis Ngannou in January 2022 by knocking out Tai Tuivasa in September.
Jones spoke with MMA Underground ahead of the clash to give his take on the matchup while sharing what it was like to be back in the mix. And in short, Jones sounds rejuvenated and ready to challenge himself.
“I’m excited,” Jones said. “I’m grateful. I feel humble. I feel appreciated by the company I work for. I feel like I’m in a really good place.
“MMA feels fun to me again. Obviously, with being out for three years and in a new division, there’s a lot of questions that cause me to stay up long nights. But, it keeps me sharp. And it’s something that I felt like I didn’t have at light heavyweight towards the end. Towards the end, it just felt like another day at the office. This doesn’t feel like another day at the office. This feels very different — the nerves and the anxiety are all back. And I do good when I’m under pressure. So, I’m just really excited.”
Jones Would Have Preferred to Fight Ngannou & Stipe Miocic Over Gane
Jones admitted that he preferred to fight Ngannou — the more popular fighter — for the belt rather than Gane. “I feel like Francis is the more intimidating of the two,” Jones said. “I feel like he’s more known in America. Francis is this big, scary, intimidating man where Ciryl is relatively unknown. And obviously, Francis has the belt so taking it from him would have been nice. It’s a different fight. Stylistically it is a different fight.”
Bones then went on to say that a scrap with the former UFC heavyweight king and the man considered by many as the greatest heavyweight champion in the promotion’s history — Stipe Miocic — “meant the most” to him.
That’s the fight that actually means the most to me,” Jones said. “Because Stipe is the greatest heavyweight of all time. I’m not looking past Ciryl Gane at all. I’m very honored to fight Ciryl Gane and I knew it would be happening eventually, inevitably. But, that’s the fight that I really was bummed didn’t happen.”
Jones Says He Plans to Beat Gane & Miocic, Then Work With UFC to See ‘What Makes Sense’
Jones, who is 35 years old, gave a “guarantee” to fight fans during his interview with MMA Underground. “My immediate goal is to beat Ciryl Gane and to beat Stipe Miocic,” Bones said. “After that, it’ll just be conversations with the UFC to see what makes sense. But, I’m guaranteeing the fans at least two more fights out of me.”
After the news was shared about the vacant heavyweight title fight, Miocic called for a shot against the winner. “March 4th – I like it,” Miocic tweeted. “I got winner in July.”