Jon Jones to return at UFC 285; Francis Ngannou released

Jon Jones to return at UFC 285; Francis Ngannou released

UFC star Jon Jones is finally set to return to action for the first time in over two years.

Jones, considered the greatest lightweight in mixed martial arts history, will make his heavyweight debut for the vacant belt against former title challenger Cyril Gane in the main event of UFC 285 on March 4 at T-Mobile Arena.

The fight was first revealed by a mobile billboard at T-Mobile Arena on Saturday afternoon, though officials said at the time nothing was official. Jones spoke after a training session in Phoenix later on Saturday and said he was in line to fight Gane in March.

UFC president Dana White then put an end to the speculation late Saturday at the Apex in Las Vegas following the UFC Fight Night 217 card that saw Sean Strickland defeat Nassourdine Imavov by unanimous decision in the main event.

White confirmed that the fight will take place and that the T-Mobile Arena billboard went up ahead of time, calling for the official reveal of the match.

“I was very, very angry a few hours ago,” White said. “I’m over it now.”

The announcement of the bout means that heavyweight champion and Las Vegas resident Francis Ngannou has been stripped of his belt and will become a free agent. He suffered a knee injury in his win over Gane in January 2022 and has been in a contract lockout with the UFC during his recovery.

White said the UFC has released Ngannou from all contractual obligations, including any matchup rights, and added that Jones has signed a new eight-fight deal as part of that deal.

Jones last stepped into the cage in February 2020, when he narrowly retained the lightweight title with a controversial decision over Dominick Reyes. It was his record 14th win in a UFC title fight, but the belt was quickly vacated after Jones announced he would be pursuing a move to heavyweight for what was expected to be a potentially massive payday against Ngannou.

While Jones, the older brother of Raiders edge defender Chandler Jones, hasn’t added to his tackles record in the past two years, he has continued to build his rap sheet.

Jon Jones was charged with aggravated DWI after allegedly discharging a firearm in downtown Albuquerque, New Mexico, in March 2020.

In 2021, he was arrested outside Caesars Palace after hotel security called the police regarding an allegation of domestic violence committed by Jones against his then-fiancée. In the video, he challenged one of the arresting officers to a fight and made several threats. The domestic violence charge was later dropped, although Jones was ordered to pay for the damage he caused when he head-oned a police vehicle.

Contact Adam Hill at [email protected]. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.

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