New UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou said Tuesday he's targeting Jon Jones for his next fight, but he's aware the former light heavyweight title-holder's contract dispute with the UFC could prevent the bout from coming to fruition.
Ngannou told Damon Martin of MMA Fighting he's planning to become an active champion, giving title shots to other fighters if his preferred matchups, including a Derrick Lewis rematch, aren't available after he captured the belt with a knockout of Stipe Miocic on Saturday:
"I want [Jon Jones] to be [my next fight] but once again, I don't have a say on that. I don't really know what's going on with Jones and the UFC. I don't know what is the matter but once again, it's not my business. I just try to handle my end, which is not easy as well for me. I just deal with myself. I can't tell Jon Jones what he has to do. I would like to have that fight, but [as opposed to that fight] I won't be sitting here waiting for some fight because it's the only fight.
"There's a lot of good fights out there. The roster right now is full of good contenders that you can eventually want to fight. This is what I have been expecting just to stay active because in the past two years, I've only fought just like twice and I don't want this to happen again, and also I don't want to be accountable for somebody else in the division not having a title shot because I'm holding on to it because I'm being inactive."
Ngannou has won five consecutive fights since his unanimous-decision loss to Lewis in July 2018. He thinks a second meeting would carry a lot of intrigue.
"Basically after a few years thinking about that [fight] and being in line for the title and being the champion and him wanting that belt for the second time as well, I think there is a lot of drive in this fight and a lot of frustration to make it way more different," Ngannou told Martin.
The 34-year-old Cameroon native added he's hopeful his ascension to champion will lead to bigger paydays with the expectation he'll fight twice more in 2021, potentially in August and December.
"I want to get paid more, if that's the question. I think everybody wants to get paid more," he told ESPN's Ariel Helwani on Wednesday. "I want good terms for that fight, in my favor, at least with more benefit. But listen, I'm under contract, I have to fight. I think the best is yet to come."
Going up against Jones would maximize Ngannou's potential payday, but it's unclear whether that's a realistic target in the short term.
Jones last fought in February 2020 when he successfully defended his lightweight title with a victory over Dominick Reyes. He vacated the belt in August amid a pay dispute with the UFC.
"And if I have to have a bad relationship with Dana [White], 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. I stood for the younger fighters," Jones said.
Whether an immediate shot at the heavyweight championship after he previously expressed interest in moving to the division would be enough to bring him back to the Octagon is unknown.
Regardless, Ngannou sounds open to any challenger as the process of setting up his first title defense gets underway.