UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou said he's still aiming for a marquee title defense against Jon Jones, who's been engaged in a long-term contract dispute with the promotion.
"I want Jon Jones," Ngannou told TMZ Sports in an interview released Friday. "... I love that fight."
Ngannou, 34, captured the heavyweight title with a victory over Stipe Miocic in March. His first defense hasn't been formally announced, but UFC president Dana White previously told TMZ he's "moved on" from the idea of Jones returning to take on the opportunity.
"We have a window where we try to build some fights and make some things happen," White said in May. "If the fights don't happen within that window, we move on, and realistically, I mean I've been saying it since the beginning: Derrick Lewis is the guy who should be getting the title shots. He beat Francis Ngannou. He's next in line, he's coming off of great performances, and that's a wrap. We're moving on."
A date for a clash between Ngannou and Lewis hasn't been confirmed, however, which has left the door open for speculation about Jones' potential return.
The 33-year-old Jones last fought in February 2020 when he defeated Dominick Reyes to defend the light heavyweight title. He vacated the belt in August.
"And if I have to have a bad relationship with Dana, sit out for two years, three years, to bring light to what's happening, then these are the things people remember you for more than winning belts," he said. "I stood for the younger fighters."
Neither Jones nor the UFC has shown signs of relenting.
Meanwhile, Ngannou remains a bit in limbo, though it's likely he'll face off with Lewis in the coming months and then they could revisit the Jones idea in the fall if he has a successful title defense.