Unexpected New Name Emerges As Safety Net for Jon Jones UFC Return

UFC, Jon Jones

Getty Jon Jones.

UFC superstar Jon Jones got linked to a surging combatant for his heavyweight debut.

Jones is widely regarded as the greatest mixed martial artist of all time. The former light heavyweight king last took to the octagon against Dominick Reyes in Feb. 2020 at UFC 247. Following a razor-thin victory on the judges’ scorecards that many believe could have swung either way, Jones relinquished his title and announced a move up to the heavyweight division.

Nearly three years on, Jones still has not been able to complete the move. He got rumored to take on reigning heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou, but contractual disputes, among other issues with the parties, never saw the bout materialize.

Former heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic, the most decorated division titleholder in the promotion’s history, was next in line to potentially welcome Jones to the division in an interim title fight. However, recent reports indicate the matchup is likely lost.

Curtis Blaydes Emerges As New Name for Jones’ Return

Nolan King of MMA Junkie reported that Jones has been itching to mark his return to competition and is on good terms with the UFC and the proposed deal. The promotion has Jones penciled in for UFC 285 on Mar. 5 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Although the hopes are to get a showdown between Ngannou and Jones, third-ranked heavyweight contender Curtis Blaydes will be a prospective backup option.

Blaydes is coming off a win over fan favorite Tom Aspinall in Jul. at UFC London. He extended his win streak to three after Aspinall succumbed to a leg injury within 15 seconds of the opening bell. The only two athletes to have defeated him are Ngannou and Derrick Lewis inside the octagon.

Ngannou & Miocic Seem Unlikely To Fight Jones

‘The Predator’ has been on the sidelines since his last outing against former interim champion Ciryl Gane in Jan. at UFC 270. He utilized a surprisingly grappling-heavy game plan to hand Gane the first defeat of his professional career.

Following the win, Ngannou revealed he went into the bout with compromised knees and would undergo surgery for the same. He was expected to sit out the rest of the year in recovery.

What’s worrying for company president Dana White is that Ngannou’s contract runs out in December, after which a three-month exclusive negotiation period shall exist. Ngannou appears ready to move on from the UFC if he does not get his demands met in the new deal, as stated on multiple occasions.

As for Miocic, White recently confirmed that the UFC never had a bout between Jones and Miocic in place. King shared that the UFC indeed tried to book the matchup, but the negotiations with Miocic did not lead to anything concrete. It looks like the Jones vs. Miocic fight is off the cards unless something miraculous pulls it out of the dead.

Renowned MMA journalist Ariel Helwani hinted it could be the end of Miocic’s run in the sport.

“I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if this marks the end of Stipe’s career,” Helwani said (transcribed by MMA Mania). “Stipe is going to go off into the night very quietly. Stipe was never going to make a big hullabaloo. Maybe it’s a [social media] post or something like that. He’s a pretty quiet guy, private guy, likes his life as a fire fighter. He was not going to make a big deal of the end of his fighting career.”

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