UFC News: Latest from Dana White on Jones vs. Ngannou, Fight Island, More

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistMay 23, 2020

JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA - MAY 08: Francis Ngannou of Cameroon poses on the scale during the UFC 249 official weigh-in on May 08, 2020 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)
Mike Roach/Getty Images

Dana White has been a busy man in the last few weeks, and it looks like that trend will continue as the UFC heads into the summer. 

The organization returned to action after the COVID-19 pandemic brought an end to fights for a while. It put on three different events in one week in Jacksonville, Florida, and now UFC is set to branch out beyond Florida. 

The UFC president spoke with ESPN on a number of hot topics in the MMA world on Friday and shed some light on several developments that could shape the upcoming fight calendar. 

Here's a quick rundown of the boss' word on everything from the UFC card set to go down next Saturday, a potential Jon Jones and Francis Ngannou fight and "Fight Island."


Jones vs. Ngannou Not Likely

There have been plenty of fights the UFC has made that started off as a Twitter beef. According to Dana White, a heavyweight blockbuster between Jon Jones and Francis Ngannou isn't going to be one of them.

Jones and Ngannou have had a quickly escalating war of words on social media that fanned the flames of the idea that the light heavyweight kingpin could move up to heavyweight in the near future. Not only would he be moving up, but he would also be taking on one of the most feared strikers in the sport. 

However, despite the war of words, White doesn't see the fight happening:

ESPN MMA @espnmma

"Obviously that's a fight people would love to see and these guys are talking a lot of smack back and forth. [But] I don't see that fight happening." @danawhite pumps the brakes on Ngannou and Jones happening at heavyweight. https://t.co/zahOH13gtK

Jones has publicly talked about the idea of moving up to heavyweight to fight The Predator. However, he quickly turned his crosshairs on the UFC itself, stating his frustration the organization was "unwilling to pay more" for moving up to heavyweight and fighting Ngannou. 

After hinting that he may be taking some time away from the sport, he backtracked on the idea and suggested Jan Blachowicz—a light heavyweight challenger—could be next. 

Jones' reign over the light heavyweight division has been as dominant a run as any in the UFC, but Dominick Reyes was able to give him his toughest test to date last time out. So even if the Ngannou superfight doesn't happen, it's notable that Jones called out Blachowicz as the next challenger in his native division. 


Fight Island Could Be Up-and-Running by June

When the UFC was desperately trying to pull off UFC 249 amid the coronavirus pandemic, Dana White introduced the idea of Fight Island: A private island owned by the UFC that would allow the company to put on fights while the rest of the sports world was shutdown. 

Since then, the organization has found a way to put on some cards in the United States. UFC 249 and two others have already gone down with another card planned for next Saturday. However, that hasn't ended the idea of Fight Island. 

The UFC president said the organization is looking toward June and that he will live at the island for the month of July as the company looks to make use of the facility at an undisclosed location:

ESPN MMA @espnmma

“Right now, we’re looking at June and we’re literally going to knock out three or four fights there in a month… I’ll probably be there the whole month of July.” @danawhite gives @Jon_Anik the latest update on Fight Island 🏝 https://t.co/J5r6dbHnFn

This seems bizarre even by UFC standards, but White hasn't backed down from the island's existence since it was first brought up. With international travel continuing to be an issue, the island would ostensibly make it easier for fighters to travel to a private island and stay isolated long enough to compete. 

If Fight Island exists and is operational, it will make the UFC's hopes of a busy summer much more realistic. 


Full May 30 Event Lineup Announced

In a rush to make up for lost time, UFC has been aggressive in putting together an array of events.

Specifically, an event for May 30 was announced just weeks before it was set to go off, and the president finally revealed the full lineup of fights to ESPN:

ESPN MMA @espnmma

Lots to like on the May 30 prelims as well. https://t.co/mj4cv7EUwl

The main card is headlined by a welterweight fight between Tyron Woodley and Gilbert Burns. It's an important fight in the division because a loss for Woodley would likely take him far from the title picture. He is just one fight removed from his championship reign being ended by Kamaru Usman, but his style didn't do him any favors in the booking department. 

Burns is an interesting opponent as he has defeated Demian Maia and Gunnar Nelson in his last two fights and boasts a five-fight win streak. 

Elsewhere on the card, a women's flyweight fight between Katlyn Chookagian and Antonina Shevchenko headlines the prelim lineup. Chookagian is also coming off a loss in a title fight. She was beaten by third-round TKO in February as the challenger to Valentina Shevchenko's crown. 

Antonina is the older sister of the champion but hasn't experienced the same success in the Octagon. She's 2-1 in her UFC career and 8-1 as a professional. 

It's a card that isn't killer by any means, but it is fairly impressive given the amount of time the company had to put it together.