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Report: Jon Jones vs. Francis Ngannou Talks Progressing for Potential UFC 285 Fight

Adam WellsNovember 30, 2022

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - SEPTEMBER 23: Former UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones poses on the red carpet prior to the UFC Hall of Fame Class of 2020 Induction Ceremony at Park Theater at Park MGM on September 23, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Jon Jones could be nearing a return to the UFC for a showdown against heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou.

On Wednesday's episode of The MMA Hour, Ariel Helwani said talks between the UFC and Ngannou are going well, and UFC 285 in March is a potential target date for a bout with Jones.

Jed I. Goodman © @jedigoodman

Ariel Helwani on Francis Ngannou: I'm hearing that talks are actually pretty good.<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TheMMAHour?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#TheMMAHour</a> <a href="https://t.co/Bg7R98Jbkw">pic.twitter.com/Bg7R98Jbkw</a>

Ngannou hasn't fought since he defeated Ciryl Gane at UFC 270 on Jan. 22 to unify the heavyweight title. He fought with a torn ACL and MCL suffered during sparring sessions leading up to the bout and required surgery.

"Upon his return (home), we plan on getting surgery and starting the recovery process so we can get him back to 100 percent as soon as possible," Ngannou's manager, Marquel Martin, told ESPN's Brett Okamoto. "In the meantime, we hope we can find a peaceful resolution in these contract talks. We'd like to thank all the fans for their continued support and belief in Francis."

The Predator told ESPN's Marc Raimondi (h/t MMAFighting.com) in September he still has a goal of competing as a boxer, and it could impact his future in the UFC.

"I don’t know [if that’ll be in the UFC], it depends. We haven’t had a real talk, but if boxing can happen in the UFC as well—we haven’t had the real talk, let’s see how it plays. I’m open to any option," Ngannou said. "But what I do know for sure is that I’m going to do that damn boxing."

Ngannou has previously talked about wanting to challenge Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder.

Jones has long been rumored to be in line to fight Ngannou. UFC President Dana White told MMA Junkie's Danny Segura and John Morgan in May 2020 the former light-heavyweight champ wanted a payout similar to what Wilder received for his second fight with Fury.

Boxing journalist Dan Rafael noted at the time that Wilder was guaranteed more than $25 million plus a percentage of any profit from pay-per-view sales.

Eric Nicksick, who coaches Ngannou, told MMA Junkie Radio in October he brought up the idea of a showdown with Bones when a UFC executive called him:

"A UFC exec called and basically said, ‘Hey, what is your ideal timeline, and what is your ideal matchup? Does it matter what my opinion is? No, but it is nice that they called and asked. I said ideally I would want March, and ideally I would want Jon Jones. The person that called agreed 1 million percent that this is what (the UFC) would like, as well. That is what Francis would like. They’re calling to figure out timeline on injury and how long I would need to get him ready."

Jones has been teasing a return to the Octagon, including telling a fan on Twitter he was preparing to fight Stipe Miocic on Dec. 10.

BONY @JonnyBones

I’m preparing to fight Stipe December 10 in Las Vegas. Not really sure what’s going on between Stipe and the UFC but I’m ready to compete! I’m going to control what I can and stay in shape. <a href="https://t.co/3Ouu9Xk8Ns">https://t.co/3Ouu9Xk8Ns</a>

Nothing came of that, but it was an indication that Jones could be close to a comeback. Bones hasn't fought since February 2020 when he defeated Dominick Reyes to retain the UFC light heavyweight championship.

Jones vacated the title six months later due to his contract dispute with the UFC.

Ngannou and Jones are arguably the two most dominant UFC champions of this generation. Ngannou has a 17-3 career record and six consecutive victories, including five by knockout or TKO.

Jones is 26-1 with one no-contest. His lone defeat was a disqualification for an illegal elbow on Matt Hamill in December 2009.