Report: Jon Jones 'Penciled in' for UFC 285; Ngannou, Blaydes Eyed as Opponents

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVNovember 22, 2022

Jon Jones
Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Jon Jones is reportedly "penciled" in to make his return to the Octagon at UFC 285 on March 5 in Las Vegas, though an opponent hasn't been finalized.

Nolan King of MMAJunkie reported Monday that Jones, who last fought in February 2020, is "ready to go" and potential counterparts include Francis Ngannou, who's recovering from a knee injury, and Curtis Blaydes.

Jones' last bout was a successful light heavyweight championship defense against Dominick Reyes, which improved his career record to 26-1 with one no contest.

One month later, he was arrested on four charges, including DWI, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He pleaded guilty to DWI and avoided jail time. He served four days of house arrest as part of a sentence that included a fine and community service.

Jones was inducted in the UFC Hall of Fame in September 2021, but one day later was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence in Las Vegas after an altercation with then-fiancée, Jessie Moses. The domestic violence charge was later dropped as part of a plea agreement that included a no-contest plea to a misdemeanor count of destruction of property.

UFC president Dana White discussed Jones' issues in Vegas in wake of the Hall of Fame ceremony.

"Let's see how this plays out legally for him, and where this ends up going," White told reporters at the time. "This city is not good for Jon Jones, and here we are again. It's not even shocking anymore. When we bring him here, it's almost expected. You can't even get him to Las Vegas for less than 12 hours to induct him into the Hall of Fame. It's a problem."

He added: "The guy has a lot of demons, man. A lot of demons."

In the Octagon, Jones is one of the most accomplished fighters in UFC history, with light heavyweight title reigns that covered most of the 2010s.

His return was originally slated to come against Stipe Miocic, but those negotiations fell apart. King noted that potential fight is "essentially gone by the wayside, barring revival from the dead."

So the focus has shifted to either Ngannou, if he's cleared to fight by early next year, or Blaydes as the "prospective safety net" if Ngannou remains sidelined, per King.

One way or another, it sounds like Jones' return should happen in early 2023.