As Francis Ngannou anxiously awaited Stipe Miocic’s return after a trilogy against Daniel Cormier, the ferocious knockout artist almost got a fight with arguably the greatest fighter of all time, Jon Jones.
Jones had talked about changing divisions for several years, but amid a spat with the UFC, he appeared more interested than ever before to move up. Ngannou seized on the opening to welcome the former 205-pound king to his new division.
Sadly, negotiations between the UFC and Jones fell apart almost as quickly as talk about the fight started. Ngannou was relegated back to the sidelines, hoping his opportunity to compete for the title would come sooner rather than later.
Right now, Ngannou still anticipates a showdown with Miocic in the first quarter of 2021. But the 34-year-old heavyweight from Cameroon also looks forward to the day he’ll be able to clash with Jones.
“It’s obviously something that everyone would love to see,” Ngannou said of a potential Jones fight in an interview with MMA Fighting. “If I were to say myself, I would have liked to see that fight. I wanted it to happen. If this fight would have happened, I would have been active by now. If I have two positive things, which is fighting Jon Jones, who is probably the greatest of all time, the No. 1 pound-for-pound in the world in my opinion, but the main thing I would stay active.
“Because right now, right here, it’s just lacking. I don’t know where I am. I don’t know what I am doing exactly. Having a fight is a good fight and having a big fight is a great thing. That’s something I’m looking forward to.”
Of course, Jones moving to heavyweight definitely injects some real excitement into the division. But there’s also the question about how his skills will translate in a bigger weight class.
Since first arriving in the UFC, Jones has rarely been tested and has run roughshod over the majority of his opponents inside the octagon. Only on a few occasions has he ever been seriously pushed in a fight, much less hurt to the point where defeat loomed.
Jones did engage in a couple of razor-close decisions over the years, including a pair of recent title defenses against Thiago Santos and Dominick Reyes. But ultimately, he still left as light heavyweight champion.
Since announcing his move to heavyweight, Jones has been meticulous with his preparation to face much bigger competition; many fighters in the division tip the scale at the 265-pound limit. Ngannou is confident that Jones’ skills at 205 pounds will translate to heavyweight, but he definitely looks forward to finding out for himself.
“I think I match up pretty well with Jon Jones,” Ngannou said. “He’s gaining weight now. He seems really big and strong, but I think I match up pretty good. He has some good skills that he can match my power. It’s going to be different.”
After announcing his intention to compete at heavyweight, Jones was clear in his desire to challenge for the title in his first fight in the division, and it’s hard to argue against that request. He was the longest-reigning light heavyweight champion in UFC history by a wide margin and essentially remained undefeated save for a disqualification loss in a fight he was absolutely dominating.
It might worry most contenders when a name like Jones is thrown into the heavyweight mix, creating the possibility he would usurp the pecking order to receive an immediate title shot. Ngannou isn’t losing any sleep over that happening. UFC President Dana White has been adamant the one-time heavyweight title challenger will face Miocic in early 2020, and then Jones can eventually face the winner.
For all the ways Ngannou has been frustrated with a long layoff after only competing for 20 seconds this past year, he seems confident the UFC will deliver on his title shot.
“Why should I be worried?” Ngannou stoically added when asked about Jones possibly jumping the line. “No, I’m not worried.”