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Jon Jones will return to the Octagon in March after more than three years away when he faces Cyril Gane at UFC 285 for the now-vacant heavyweight title.

Jones (26-1 MMA, 20-1 UFC), a former light heavyweight champion, is eyeing a return to his heavyweight debut as he vacates the 205-pound title in May 2020. Now finally confirmed. He will face Gaine (11-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC) for the belt the UFC stripped Francis Ngannou (17-3 MMA, 12-2 UFC) after a contract dispute with the promotion.

UFC President Dana White confirmed the matchup after Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 217 after photos of a digital billboard attached to the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas surfaced on social media. That same venue is slated to host the March 4 event, which will be televised on pay-per-view following the anticipated preliminary results on ESPN and ESPN+.

White said Ngannou has been released from his UFC contract and is free to fight elsewhere.

“We’ve been in talks with (Ngannou) for over two years,” White said, adding that Ngannou’s knee, which recently underwent surgery, could also be a problem for him. “We offered Francis a deal that would have made him the highest-paid heavyweight in the history of the company, more than (Brock) Lesnar, more than anybody, and he turned the deal down.”

Jones, considered by many to be one of the greatest fighters in MMA history, has not competed since UFC 247 in February 2020. He scored a tough and controversial decision over Dominic Reyes in that bout to win his 13th career title fight at 205. pounds

Soon after, Jones embarked on a move up the heavyweight division that he had been planning for more than a decade. He still wanted a better contract from the UFC and held out in hopes of getting a better deal. It is not known if Jones has renegotiated the contract he wanted or will fight under his previous terms.

During much of Jones’ shift in the division, Ngannou and Stipe Miocic were the two names most often associated with his heavyweight debut. Instead, he will face former interim champion Gaine, who is coming off a third-round knockout of Tai Tuivasa at UFC Fight Night 209 in September. Gane lost a title unification bout to Ngannou, his former teammate, at UFC 270 in January 2022.

The latest UFC 285 lineup now includes:

  • Jon Jones vs. Cyril Gane – for the vacant heavyweight title
  • Derek Brunson vs Drichus Du Plessis
  • Jeff Neal vs. Shavkat Rakhmonov
  • Vivian Araujo vs. Amanda Ribas
  • Bo Nickal vs. Jamie Pickett
  • Jessica Penn vs. Tabatha Richie
  • Farid Basharat vs. Da’Mon Blackshear
  • Julio Arsen vs. Cody Garbrandt
  • Mario Bautista vs. Guido Cannetti
  • Marc-Andre Barrio vs. Julian Marquez
  • Kamuela Kirk vs. Esteban Ribovic

For more information on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 285.



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