We might have seen the last of Jon Jones at light heavyweight.
The undisputed best 205-pounder in the world for the past decade, “Bones” is on track to make a long-awaited jump up to the heavyweight division in 2021 after teasing the move for years. Jones successfully defended the light heavyweight title once this past year, winning a close decision against Dominick Reyes at UFC 247 in February, then vacated the title in August amid a public dispute with the UFC over fighter compensation. He later announced his intentions to chase a second title.
Jones has won 15 UFC championship bouts (excluding a third-round KO in his second meeting Daniel Cormier at UFC 214 in July 2017 that was overturned to a no contest when Jones tested positive for the banned substance turinabol and was subsequently suspended for 15 months) and plans for his next title conquest to be at heavyweight. In a recent interview with Bleacher Report, Jones explained that one of the reasons he wanted to change divisions was to provide an opportunity for other fighters.
“The reason why I decided to vacate the light heavyweight belt and not hang onto it is that I knew my move to heavyweight was going to take a really long time,” Jones said. “I didn’t want to be one of those athletes to slow down the division. I feel like I’ve held onto the light heavyweight championship for so long—I’ve ruined so many people’s dreams of being the light heavyweight champion—and now it’s time for someone else to have it.
“I thought it was the right thing to do for everyone else. I could have done the selfish thing and held onto it and come up with a bunch of excuses and lied to the fans and said I was going to come back down to light heavyweight and made all these guys wait. I didn’t want to do that. I have no intentions of ever going back to light heavyweight.”
With Jones exiting the division, the path has been cleared for a superfight between recently crowned light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz and middleweight champion Israel Adesanya. Blachowicz is expected to defend his title against Adesanya at UFC 259 in March.
That’s likely disappointing news for fans who were hoping that the months Jones and Adesanya have spent sniping at each other in interviews and on social media would have resulted in a superfight of a different kind, but as it stands the two do not appear to be headed for an in-cage collision. Instead, Jones awaits what he assumes will be an immediate title shot, though he’s unsure if it will be against heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic or No. 1 contender Francis Ngannou.
There’s currently no timetable for when Miocic plans to fight again after settling his own feud with Cormier in 2020 and thus no timetable for when Jones may get a shot at the winner of a potential Miocic-Ngannou rematch. Both Miocic and Ngannou have publicly welcomed the challenge of welcoming Jones to heavyweight.
“I’ll be ready for either of them,” Jones said. “Both fights are extremely challenging. Stipe, he’s the greatest heavyweight of all time. He has all the stats and records to prove that. And then Francis is just a freak when it comes to his knockout power, and he’s improving constantly.
“Both fights are gigantic challenges, but that’s what I’m here for in this stage of my career: to go big and see what I’ve got.”
Jones told Bleacher Report that he feels “alive” in training as he prepares for a career-changing move and reiterated the notion that a heavyweight title is essential to cementing his legacy. He said his current plan is to win and defend the belt a few times before focusing on humanitarian work.
The hunter for the first time in ages, Jones is already envisioning what it will look like if he becomes a two-division champion.
“It’ll feel amazing,” Jones said. “Somewhere along the line, getting that light heavyweight championship wrapped around my waist, the excitement and other emotions it should have evoked, kind of went away. It was just another day at the office. It was what we always do. But I haven’t won that heavyweight championship yet. To do that for my family, and do that for my team, and all the people that have invested in me over the years, it’ll be something new for all of us.”