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Coach: Francis Ngannou return ideal for early 2023 against Jon Jones

MMA: JAN 22 UFC 270 Photo by Louis Grasse/PxImages/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Francis Ngannou may not be ready to come back around the time that’s been speculated.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight titleholder was last seen successfully defending his crown in a Jan. 2022 showdown versus Ciryl Gane. Earning a unanimous decision (watch highlights), Ngannou suffered further damage to an already injured knee, resulting in him undergoing surgery soon after.

Ngannou hasn’t been expected to return until possibly Dec. 2022, but according to his head coach at Xtreme Couture, Eric Nicksick, it may be a little bit later than even that.

“The fight that makes the most sense is obviously Jon Jones,” Nicksick told MMA Fighting. “That’s the fight we all want. The way I look at it is, Jon Jones has been out for two and a half years. If we can’t do it in December, and depending on the way the UFC schedule plays out, maybe [it can happen] in January or February, somewhere in that timeline.

“Jon hasn’t fought in so long, Stipe [Miocic] hasn’t fought since Francis beat him, so that will be two years for Stipe in March, so might as well wait another month for the super fight and the fight to make,” he continued. “Honestly, for me, I’d love the Stipe fight again, or the Jones fight, but if I had my choice between the two, obviously I want to compete against the best to ever do it, in my opinion, and that’s Jon Jones.”

While the top of the division remains stagnant with 2023 right around the corner, other notable Heavyweights have continued to make their presence felt. This weekend (Sat., Sept. 3, 2022) at UFC Paris, the aforementioned Gane aims to rebound against surging Australian, Tai Tuivasa.

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In the very possible chance that things can’t be worked out between either Jones or Miocic for an Ngannou fight, Nicksick highlighted Tuivasa as the next clear option, should he extend his win streak to six on Saturday.

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