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Anthony Smith: Jon Jones ‘not in the equation’ at heavyweight until he signs a contract, Curtis Blaydes deserves interim title shot

Jon Jones cups his hand to his ear
Jon Jones cups his hand to his ear
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Curtis Blaydes has no doubt that if the UFC is going to crown an interim heavyweight champion in Francis Ngannou’s absence that he should be at least one-half of that fight.

Following his win, Blaydes called for that opportunity while naming ex-champion Stipe Miocic and Ciryl Gane as his most likely opposition but no matter what he wants to be in that conversation if the promotion is going to hand out an interim belt.

One-time UFC title challenger Anthony Smith agrees, especially after watching Blaydes lay waste to Chris Daukaus by second-round knockout at UFC Columbus, which extended his win streak to two in a row with a 6-1 record overall in his past seven fights.

“Curtis Blaydes has got to be one-half of [an interim title fight],” Smith said on The Fighter vs. The Writer. “No. 1, out of anybody that we’re talking about, Curtis Blaydes is the only one coming off a win. Stipe’s coming off a loss and Ciryl Gane’s coming off a loss. It’s got to be Curtis versus one of those guys.

“I wouldn’t doubt it’s Stipe or that they try to make that fight, especially because Ciryl did just lose to Francis and if he wins then for whatever reason Ciryl doesn’t fight again, then Francis comes back and we’ve got to do that again. No one else stands out to me.”

Miocic is the longest reigning UFC heavyweight champion in history and he had hoped for an immediate rematch with Ngannou after falling to him by knockout in their most recent encounter in March 2021. In their first meeting, Miocic soundly defeated Ngannou in a lopsided unanimous decision, which is why the Ohio native felt like a trilogy between them made the most sense.

Ultimately, the UFC opted to matchup Ngannou with Gane instead and Miocic has been sitting on the outside looking in while awaiting word on his next fight.

Of course the other potential hurdle to Blaydes’ title aspirations could be Jon Jones’ arrival at heavyweight as he continues to tease his move to the division after relinquishing his 205-pound title all the way back in 2020.

On Tuesday, Jones was once again talking about his plans to fight at heavyweight as he looks to become a two-division champion when he finally returns.

“I’ve been imagining it for over two years now, I genuinely believe winning this heavyweight championship is in my destiny,” Jones wrote on Twitter. “It’s already been written.

“I just need to keep my nose in the dirt for now and keep working, everything else will take care of itself.”

As much as that makes it sound like Jones will be fighting sooner rather than later, Smith just can’t put him into the interim title conversation right now.

“Until Jon signs a contract with someone, I’m just imagining he’s not in the equation,” Smith said. “Because you can’t talk about ‘what if’s’ and Jon is a big what if.

“I think best case is everyone just pulls Jon out of it and let’s just stop talking about him until he decides what he wants to do. Jon Jones is out of the picture.”

February marked two years since Jones last saw action in the UFC so it’s difficult to argue with Smith’s logic when it comes to the current landscape at heavyweight. Jones has also been stuck in contract negotiations with the UFC on his next fight after arguing about his salary when a matchup against Ngannou was proposed two years ago.

As for Blaydes, Smith knows he’s been biding his time to finally get a shot at UFC gold and a showdown with Miocic really is the matchup that makes the most sense.

“I think that is the fight to make,” Smith stated.

As of now, the UFC hasn’t made any announcement regarding the future of the heavyweight division with Ngannou recovering from knee surgery until 2023, although Dana White has said that it’s likely an interim title will be introduced in the near future.

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