Jon Jones finally has a date and opponent for his heavyweight debut — and the best heavyweight in the world is no longer a UFC fighter.
Jones, 35, one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in MMA and the most decorated light heavyweight champion in UFC history, is set to meet one-time title challenger Ciryl Gane for the UFC heavyweight title on March 4 in the main event of UFC 285. UFC president Dana White announced the news Saturday at the UFC Vegas 67 post-fight press conference.
The news means that UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou has vacated his title and is now a free agent, White said. Ngannou captured his title in 2021 with a knockout of Stipe Miocic and defended it in January 2022 with a hard-fought decision over Gane. He has been sidelined while rehabilitating a knee injury ever since, however he will now look for a new home as one of the most coveted free agents to hit the open market in MMA history.
Jones (26-1, 1 NC) is widely considered one of the greatest fighters to ever compete. A two-time UFC light heavyweight champion, Jones racked up 11 title defenses from 2011-20, defeating a slew of all-time greats including Daniel Cormier, Glover Teixeira, Maurício Rua, Quinton Jackson, Lyoto Machida, Rashad Evans, Vitor Belfort, and more.
“Bones” has been sidelined since vacating his 205-pound belt title in early 2020 in advance of an eventual move up to heavyweight. The 6-foot-4 American has been publicly toying with a heavyweight move for more than a decade, but finally committed to reshaping his body and bulking up to more than 255 pounds over the past few years.
Despite his successful results in the cage, “Bones” has been embroiled in many controversies both inside and outside of competition as well, including a domestic battery case in late 2021 stemming from an alleged incident in Las Vegas following his UFC Hall of Fame induction for his UFC 165 fight with Alexander Gustafsson.
Gane (11-1) is MMA Fighting’s No. 2 ranked heavyweight in the world. The 32-year-old Frenchman has won eight of his nine UFC appearances, including a wild third-round knockout over Tai Tuivasa in his most recent outing this past September. Gane’s lone UFC loss came in a unanimous decision against Ngannou in his first challenge for the UFC title.
UFC 285 takes place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.