Jon Jones’ return to the sport at Heavyweight continues to be delayed, but it sounds like UFC has a date in mind for the former 205-pound champion to compete. It also has an opponent ... and a back up.
Nolan King reports that UFC has Jones penciled in for UFC 285 on March 5, 2023, in Las Vegas, Nevada. The very optimistic hope is that Jones and Heavyweight champion, Francis Ngannou, will fight. But, with Ngannou sounding ready to walk away from the promotion when his UFC contract expires in early 2023, that seems like a long shot. The name the promotion has as a “prospective safety net” isn’t quite as exciting: Curtis Blaydes.
Blaydes is 17-3 (12-3-1 UFC), on a three-fight win streak and 5-1 since 2020 began. He’s No. 3 in UFC’s Heavyweight rankings. So, he has the credentials to be a solid debut opponent for Jones in his new weight class. But, the fight certainly loses some of that sizzle because “Razor” has a (somewhat unfair) reputation as a conservative and boring fighter.
What happened to the idea of Jon Jones vs. Stipe Miocic? Miocic is statistically the greatest UFC Heavyweight of all time, and Jones has repeatedly called for a fight against the two-time champion. Unfortunately, it sounds like negotiations between UFC execs and Miocic are at a standstill.
“I think once they didn’t really come correct with an offer – and that’s really what happened here,” The MMA Hour host, Ariel Helwani, revealed at the start of November. “It was like a, ‘Hey, you wanna fight him, here’s the amount, take it or leave it.’ And [Stipe Miocic] was like ‘Uhhh,’ and then they just moved on.”
One month later and King reports that nothing substantial has changed and the match up is, “gone by the wayside, barring revival from the dead.”
Curtis Blaydes said I don't need any takedowns pic.twitter.com/trlLiIOhPq— Jason Williams (@jasoneg33) March 27, 2022
If relations between Miocic and UFC don’t improve, it could be the end of Miocic’s career.
“I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if this marks the end of Stipe’s career,” Helwani added. “Stipe is going to go off into the night very quietly. Stipe was never going to make a big hullabaloo. Maybe it’s a [social media] post or something like that. He’s a pretty quiet guy, private guy, likes his life as a fire fighter. He was not going to make a big deal of the end of his fighting career.”
Miocic and Ngannou both walking away leaves Jones in a similar position to where he was at 205 pounds: fighting tough guys with little mainstream name recognition, rather than the big money “super” fights he clearly craves. But, at this point, it’s been more than two years since he relinquished the Light Heavyweight belt to move to Heavyweight.
In other words, if he’s going to make a move, he has to do it soon, regardless of who the opponent may be.