Team Ngannou had an interesting takeaway from their recent run-in with Jon Jones.
Jones and the former UFC heavyweight champion finally crossed paths this past June, coming face-to-face in a viral moment at the PFL 5 card in Atlanta. While the interaction was mostly cordial, with Francis Ngannou and Jones sizing one another up and sharing a few pointed words as PFL president Ray Sefo hovered nearby, it was also a first glance at what a hypothetical superfight between MMA’s two top-ranked heavyweights could look like.
Ngannou’s longtime representative Marquel Martin had a front-row seat for the scene, and he believes Jones’ body language told the story of a man surprised by the enormity of the task once all 285 pounds of “The Predator” was standing right in front of him.
“I’m telling you, Jon Jones understood that right away,” Martin said recently on The MMA Hour. “That’s why they do those faceoffs, right? They size each other up and everything. Man, I’m a big fan of Jon Jones, but you can tell that he was like, ‘OK, this is a different beast that I’m touching.’ And Francis and I talked afterwards, we both think [Jones] was a little bit nervous. He was a little bit nervous. Oh yeah, I’m telling you.
“Not like a scared thing or whatever. But it was, you had to be there to really understand — there was respect, mutual respect, but as competitors, it’s like, ‘Oh, maybe this wouldn’t be an easy fight like a Ciryl Gane,’ from Jon Jones. That’s what I got. If I’m trying to read [Jones’] mind, he knew good and well this would not be that kind of fight.”
Ngannou and Jones have angled back and forth over a potential fight for more than two years, since Ngannou’s title win over Stipe Miocic in March 2021. Ngannou ultimately parted ways with the UFC this past January, exiting the promotion as its champion in an unprecedented move in order to pursue other opportunities. He’s since signed a lucrative MMA deal with PFL and secured a boxing superfight against Tyson Fury on Oct. 28.
In Ngannou’s stead, Jones finally made his long-awaited debut in the heavyweight division by capturing the vacant UFC title in March with a first-round win over Ciryl Gane.
Ngannou and Jones are currently the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked heavyweights in the world, respectively, in MMA Fighting’s Global Rankings.
In their impromptu PFL faceoff, Jones could be heard telling Ngannou “you don’t want no smoke” and warning the Cameroonian fighter that “it’s going to take more than a year” to get ready for Jones’ level of grappling. The former UFC light heavyweight champion added later that night on the PFL broadcast, “I know that I’m badder than [Ngannou]. I don’t have to give him any weird looks or whatever. His big muscles, he’s a very impressive looking figure, but when it comes to this fight game, it’s my whole world and I know who I am.”
All in all, while the entire situation ignited plenty of debate within the MMA world, it was also a bittersweet reminder of a fight that probably isn’t actually going to happen.
“I think that timing was just interesting, that obviously [Jones] was cornering Maurice Greene and obviously PFL is going to have us out,” Martin said. “But just being there, it almost felt like a tease for me, just sitting there. It was like, ah, this is what we’ve talked about, this is what we wanted, this is what we asked for. We literally tried to get that fight for three years. Three years. I think it’s still a possibility. I know that sometimes maybe cooler heads prevail. I’m hoping that Dana [White] somehow sees this, we want to make that fight.
“Let’s do that fight. The world deserves and wants to see that fight. Again, he’s one of the greatest promoters out there. We’re not the ones saying no to that fight, just know that.”