In an interview with Submission Radio, coach Brandon Gibson was asked to assess the threat level of Ngannou and Miocic should they end up being booked to face Jones, a three-time titleholder at 205 pounds, and Gibson said he likes how Jones stacks up against anyone in the heavyweight division.
“Stipe’s the greatest UFC champion in heavyweight history,” Gibson said (transcript via Denis Shkuratov). “Very well rounded, lots of championship experience. He’s shown so much resiliency like in the trilogy with [Daniel Cormier] and his ability to come back. And Stipe has a victory over Francis as well. He’s a great, well-rounded martial artist, who’s powerful, who has devastating knockout power in both hands. And then Francis just has that X-factor. His size, his strength, and he can sleep anybody, from any stance, from any angle. He doesn’t need to be balanced or be punching off his back foot. It doesn’t matter. They both have their challenges and their own unique ways, and we’re going to have to take each of them very differently. Very differently.
“But Jon Jones has the skill set to get his hand raised in both of those bouts. There’s no doubt in my mind about it. There’s nobody like Jon at heavyweight. Nobody as dynamic, as fast, as gifted in all the disciplines like Jon is. And his IQ is off the chart. Not to say that these other guys aren’t smart, brilliant fighters, but Jon Jones’ IQ and comprehension of his game is unlike anybody else’s in the world.”
Jones has been out of action since February 2020, with outside-of-the-cage legal issues and a contract dispute with the UFC keeping him on the sidelines. During his time away, Jones has repeatedly stated that his goal is to become heavyweight champion.
At light heavyweight, Jones is essentially undefeated (his lone loss a 2009 disqualification in a bout against Matt Hamill that he was dominating before landing an illegal elbow), but it remains to be seen how he’ll fare against the largest athletes on the UFC roster. Gibson believes his team has prepared Jones the right way and that “Bones” will not be at a power disadvantage.
“You think of fighters going up in a weight class and they always put on size and mass and power,” Gibson said. “You look at Conor [McGregor] from his 145 days, going up to lightweight, going up to welterweight and that’s a 25-pound difference. Jon Jones, his weight is up there right now and it’s much more than 25 pounds. So he is hitting extremely hard and extremely accurate and technical and fast.
“I’ve trained a lot of amazing heavyweights. I’ve trained [Andrei] Arlovski and [Alistair] Overeem and Frank Mir and Travis Browne, and Jon Jones is more powerful, explosive, creative, dynamic than all of them. So I can’t wait to see Jon make that walk at heavyweight. It’s gonna be something truly, truly special, and I’m humbled to be a part of it.”
It hasn’t been the smoothest transition between divisions for Jones. Aside from the aforementioned legal problems — which include a Sept. 24, 2021 arrest for Jones’ involvement in a domestic disturbance incident in Las Vegas on the same night that he was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame (the case has since been resolved with Jones’ striking a plea deal) — Jones recently took some flack on social media over footage of a pad sessions that some critics found unimpressive.
Gibson just shakes his head at the criticism.
“We’re not trying to show our sharpest work, right?” Gibson said. “Jon sometimes just likes to throw up a combination, kind of let everybody see where he’s at. But we’re not going for a speed record or some power record right now. All we care about is being ready when the bell rings on fight night. So I think it’s cool when he shares a little snippet of that, but I don’t let any fans’ critique of Jon’s mitt work get to me at all, cause I know how it feels. I know how fast he is. I know how focused and dedicated he’s been the last two and a half years working towards this goal.
“So I don’t mind if he shares something. I also don’t mind if we just keep working in the shadows because all that matters to me is that fight night. But believe me, Jon is hitting hard and he’s so skilled right now. His skill set’s at an all-time high and he has so much power and athleticism and stamina on top of it all. I think the fans are gonna be really, really shocked and surprised when they see him at heavyweight.”
Watch Gibson’s full interview with Submission Radio here: