We still don’t know who Jon Jones’ first opponent as heavyweight will be, but UFC president Dana White has revealed the fight will be for the highest of stakes.
White confirmed to TMZ on Friday that Jones’ next fight will be against the winner of the heavyweight championship bout between champion Stipe Miocic and Francis Ngannou, currently scheduled for UFC 260 on March 27.
Jones hasn’t appeared in the Octagon since defending the light heavyweight belt against Dominick Reyes at UFC 247 last February. Since then, he has walked away from negotiations for a jump to heavyweight to fight Ngannou, pleaded guilty to DWI, blasted White amid a pay dispute, threatened to sit out for two to three years, vacated his light heavyweight title and hinted that a move to heavyweight could finally be coming.
Jones has previously tweeted his interest in facing Miocic, and has already been at the negotiating table once to face Ngannou.
“It should happen this year,” White said to TMZ, “It depends, if that fight with Stipe and Francis goes off before summer, then we can have that fight happen in the summer time.”
Ngannou is currently a -155 favorite for the heavyweight title fight, according to BetMGM. Miocic and Ngannou faced each other before at UFC 218 in Jan. 2018, where Miocic won via unanimous decision.
Jones’ ascent to heavyweight has been long-awaited, and it’s not a surprise that he won’t be required to prove himself before facing the division’s best. Jones’ run atop the light heavyweight division, interrupted only by his own mistakes and transgressions, has already established himself as one of the sport’s all-time greats.
Incredibly enough given his longevity, Jones is younger than both Miocic and Ngannou, and winning a belt in another division would further cement his legacy.
Dana White teases ‘tournament’ at lightweight
Jones and the heavyweight division weren’t the only topics of conversation for White with TMZ, as he also gave a rough outline for the future of the lightweight division.
With lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov still retired (despite White’s best efforts), the division remains stocked with plenty of well-known fighters. White said the plan is for an unofficial “tournament” to sort out the UFC’s top lightweight, mentioning the likes of Conor McGregor, Dustin Poirier, Justin Gaethje, Charles Oliveira, Michael Chandler, Tony Ferguson, Nate Diaz and Rafael dos Anjos as potential contestants. He added that a trilogy fight between McGregor and Poirier — which both fighters have said they’re interested in — “makes sense.”
White also provided an update on Nurmagomedov, saying he would be having dinner with the Russian in Las Vegas soon. He said the discussion would be for “the last time maybe as a UFC fighter or not as a UFC fighter,” which could be a hint that the promotion will finally move on from a fighter that retired for five months now.
“I think there’s still a chance, yes,” White said about the possibility of one last fight.
White threw cold water on one rumor though, saying that Georges St-Pierre’s recent workouts are not a hint at an upcoming return to the Octagon.
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