Heavyweight Francis Ngannou has been stripped of his UFC title and is now an unrestricted free agent KossyDerrickBlog KossyDerrickEnt

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Saturday, January 14, 2023

Heavyweight Francis Ngannou has been stripped of his UFC title and is now an unrestricted free agent

Jon Jones will make his return to the octagon in March after more than three years away when he meets Ciryl Gane for the now vacant heavyweight title at UFC 285.

Jones (26-1 MMA, 20-1 UFC), a former longtime light heavyweight champion, has been teasing a return to action for his heavyweight debut since heh vacated the 205-pound title in May 2020. It’s now finally set. He’ll meet Gane (11-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC) for the belt the UFC has stripped from Francis Ngannou (17-3 MMA, 12-2 UFC) after a contract dispute with the promotion.

White said Ngannou has been released from his UFC contract and is free to fight elsewhere.

“We’ve been negotiating with (Ngannou) for more than two years,” White said, and added that Ngannou’s knee, which recently was surgically repaired, could be an issue for him, as well. “We offered Francis a deal that would’ve made him the highest paid heavyweight in the history of the company – more than (Brock) Lesnar, more than anybody, and he turned the deal down.”

Jones, who many consider to be one of the greatest fighters in MMA history, hasn’t competed since UFC 247 in February 2020. He edged out a narrow and controversial decision over Dominick Reyes in that fight for his 13th career title fight win at 205 pounds.

Shortly after that, Jones committed to a move up heavyweight, which he’d been plotting for more than a decade. He wanted a better contract from the UFC, however, and held out in hopes of getting a better deal. It’s unknown if Jones renegotiated for the contract he wanted or if he’ll fight under his previous terms.

For the majority of the time of Jones’ looming changing in division, Ngannou and Stipe Miocic were the two names most frequently connected to his heavyweight debut. Instead, he’ll meet former interim champ Gane, who is coming off a third-round knockout of Tai Tuivasa at UFC Fight Night 209 in September. Gane lost a title unification bout to Ngannou, his former teammate, at UFC 270 in January 2022.

Former light-heavyweight champion Jones, who has signed an eight-fight deal, will now make his return to the octagon after more than three years away, facing Gane for the vacant title.

One of the top pound-for-pound fighters on the planet, Jones racked up 11 light-heavyweight championship defences during his time in the UFC, with wins over some of the best fighters to ever compete.

Jones has been teasing a comeback at heavyweight since he vacated his 205-pound title in 2020, and is said to be tipping the scales at 255 pounds, just 10 pounds shy of the 265lb heavyweight limit.

'Bones' has a 26-1 record in the light heavyweight division, with one no contest because he tested positive for a prohibited steroid after his knockout win over Daniel Cormier at UFC 214 in July 2017.

Gane is the UFC's No.1 ranked heavyweight and is widely considered one of the best strikers in the world. He has only ever been knocked down once, by Aussie Tai Tuivasa, and has a record of 9-1 - his only loss coming to Ngannou last January.

Eric Nicksick, Ngannou's head coach, ballparked the probability of a Jones-Ngannou fight happening then.

"I think it's 50-50, to be honest with you, when you're talking business and timeline," Nicksick told Mike Heck of MMA Fighting.

"I'm confident from what I saw from Francis a couple of weeks ago that if we had to be ready for March, I think we can get him ready, but I think it is cutting it a little bit short because he had to go back home and renew his visa."

A Jones-Ngannou fight won't be happening now, but numerous MMA analysts sided with Ngannou upon his departure. The 36-year-old Ngannou is 17-3 (12-2 UFC) in his professional career, with 12 knockouts and four submissions. He's won six straight fights, including a second-round KO over Stipe Miocic, which earned him the heavyweight belt at UFC 260 in March 2021. Ngannou won by unanimous decision over Gane in Jan. 2022 at UFC 270.

Jon Jones will make his return to the octagon in March after more than three years away when he meets Ciryl Gane for the now vacant heavyweight title at UFC 285.

Jones (26-1 MMA, 20-1 UFC), a former longtime light heavyweight champion, has been teasing a return to action for his heavyweight debut since heh vacated the 205-pound title in May 2020. It’s now finally set. He’ll meet Gane (11-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC) for the belt the UFC has stripped from Francis Ngannou (17-3 MMA, 12-2 UFC) after a contract dispute with the promotion.

UFC president Dana White confirmed the matchup Saturday following UFC Fight Night 217 after photos of a digital billboard attached to T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas surfaced on social media. That same venue is set to host the March 4 event, which will air on pay-per-view following prelims expected for ESPN and ESPN+.White said Ngannou has been released from his UFC contract and is free to fight elsewhere.

“We’ve been negotiating with (Ngannou) for more than two years,” White said, and added that Ngannou’s knee, which recently was surgically repaired, could be an issue for him, as well. “We offered Francis a deal that would’ve made him the highest paid heavyweight in the history of the company – more than (Brock) Lesnar, more than anybody, and he turned the deal down.”

Jones, who many consider to be one of the greatest fighters in MMA history, hasn’t competed since UFC 247 in February 2020. He edged out a narrow and controversial decision over Dominick Reyes in that fight for his 13th career title fight win at 205 pounds.

Shortly after that, Jones committed to a move up heavyweight, which he’d been plotting for more than a decade. He wanted a better contract from the UFC, however, and held out in hopes of getting a better deal. It’s unknown if Jones renegotiated for the contract he wanted or if he’ll fight under his previous terms.

For the majority of the time of Jones’ looming changing in division, Ngannou and Stipe Miocic were the two names most frequently connected to his heavyweight debut. Instead, he’ll meet former interim champ Gane, who is coming off a third-round knockout of Tai Tuivasa at UFC Fight Night 209 in September. Gane lost a title unification bout to Ngannou, his former teammate, at UFC 270 in January 2022.

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