Francis Ngannou understands what Jon Jones has been trying to do since UFC 285 by spinning Ngannou’s UFC exit as something he did to avoid a fight with Jones.
He also understands how silly that sounds to anyone who’s been paying attention.
“It’s almost three years now that I’ve been trying to fight Jon Jones,” Ngannou told ESPN. “After I fought [Jairzinho] Rozenstruik during the pandemic, I think we even went on social media for a little bit, and that fight never happened, or the promise or the attempt. Even the promise for the winner between Stipe [Miocic] and I [after UFC 260] that’s supposed to fight Jon Jones, but it never happened. So I did everything to have that fight.
“It didn’t just happen, but at the end I felt like that was the bargain [chip for the UFC] to keep me, maybe [to convince me to] do something that I don’t want just because I want that fight. Yes, I wanted that fight, but not at any cost.”
At UFC 285, Jones captured the vacant heavyweight title with a two-minute submission win over Ciryl Gane — the same title Ngannou vacated with his UFC exit in January, which was the culmination of a years-long contractual standoff between Ngannou and the UFC.
Jones has repeatedly taken shots at Ngannou following the win, calling the now-former champ a “big ol’ p****” in his post-fight press conference and suggesting on social media that Ngannou’s UFC exit was a merely ploy to avoid the same mega-fight against Jones that Ngannou called for throughout the majority of the final years of his UFC tenure.
“We know Jon Jones with his drama. I think that Jon is being dramatic,” Ngannou said. “He’s been out for how long? Three years and something? And I’ve been calling him [out]. I remember even after I fought Stipe, Dana said if he watched that fight, he should move down to 185. But I don’t take that seriously. There is not a fight on Earth that I would back down from. I don’t care. I go there and whatever happens, happens. It’s the sport. And definitely Jon Jones is not that guy. He might be the best fighter ever, but he’s not the guy that I’m running away from. No, not him. I would fight Jon Jones twice a month.”
Jones debuted at No. 2 in MMA Fighting’s global heavyweight rankings following UFC 285, slotting only beneath Ngannou, who remains ranked at No. 1 in the world.
Ngannou holds victories over a myriad of contenders in the weight class, including Gane, Stipe Miocic, Curtis Blaydes (x2), Cain Velasquez, and Alistair Overeem. Asked if he still considers himself to be MMA’s best heavyweight, Ngannou said that he does, however he also acknowledged that he knows that will eventually change due to his MMA inactivity.
Ngannou also showed Jones respect when asked for his breakdown of how a potential fight between the two titans of the sport would’ve gone down had it happened at UFC 285.
“Everything can happen in the fight,” Ngannou said. “I can sit here and tell you that I would’ve knocked Jon Jones out, which is what I would’ve intended to, but that fight, since it never happened, you will never know. Everybody can now make the perfect ending for himself and say whatever could’ve happened, but you don’t know what [would’ve] happened in the fight. Yes, I will tell you I would’ve knocked him out, but he will tell you something else. And then when you get into the fight, in the actual fight, it’s something different. So we can’t really know, since it never happened.”
For now, Ngannou confirmed that his first post-UFC move will come in a boxing ring.
Ngannou said he’s hoping to be able to make an announcement about a potential date and location “in a month or two” — and a familiar name has emerged for his opponent.
“The most that we have spoken is [with] Deontay Wilder’s team,” Ngannou said. “Yes, we’ve been having some exchanges and basically coming to some sort of a verbal agreement that we want to fight each other. We want to fight two fights.
“We want to fight maybe one of those fights in Africa, or maybe two of those fights in Africa, which would be massive, which would be great. I think it’s August next year that is the 50th anniversary of Rumble in the Jungle, and I think would be an opportunity to do something massive in Africa, a big event. So we are looking at something around that timeline for the potential second fight, which would be, in my opinion, still in boxing.”
Ngannou added that because boxing is his current focus, he’s not in a hurry to sign a new free agent deal with an MMA promotion, but still noted that he’s had “serious conversations” with PFL and ONE Championship, but “not too much with Bellator.”
“There is not a rush since my first fight has to be in boxing, so that’s where my focus is at right now,” Ngannou said. “But ... if there is a right contract with the right terms, maybe — I have no problem making an agreement before stepping into a boxing fight.”