The hypothetical match up between Francis Ngannou and Jon Jones can officially be added to the list of big fights that got away.
It was announced this past weekend that Ngannou has officially been stripped of his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight crown and released from the promotion after failing to negotiate a new contract. Therefore, opening the door for Jones to make his long-awaited divisional debut opposite France’s Ciryl Gane.
Since he became champion in March 2021, Ngannou was very vocal about his desire for better pay and freedom to partake in opportunities outside of UFC. Despite this, the community is now questioning whether or not Ngannou ever wanted a fight the caliber of Jones. Former rival of “Bones,” Daniel Cormier, isn’t buying into the narrative and sees some similarities to his own legacy.
“Isn’t it a bit ironic that Jon Jones is fighting for a vacant Heavyweight championship?” Cormier said on his YouTube channel (h/t MMA Fighting). “Do you guys remember what I went through when I won the belt? Now, it’s different, Jon hasn’t fought Francis before but isn’t it ironic that he’s in this situation now? My advice to you now, Jon, is if you win the fight, get thick skin, because people will be unrelenting.
“Right now, because Francis left, it’s almost like, ‘Francis avoided Jones.’ That’s not true,” he continued. “Francis would have fought Jon Jones on any day of the week. Let’s not get crazy fans. But trust me, Jones, it’s going to flip to, ‘Is he the real champion because he didn’t beat Francis Ngannou?’ if you win that fight against Ciryl Gane.”
Cormier captured his first UFC title on the heels of Jones being stripped for a hit-and-run incident involving a pregnant woman. This came shortly after the pair’s encounter, which resulted in a Jones victory via unanimous decision at UFC 182 in Jan. 2015.
Heavyweight will be uncharted territory for Jones after three years away from the sport. Ngannou was always the clear fight to make, but as time went on, plenty of speculation arose regarding whether or not he was actually the former Light Heavyweight kingpin’s toughest challenge.
“I thought Jon versus Francis was the biggest and my most anticipated fight because of the dangers that Francis Ngannou presents to Jon Jones with the power and everything,” Cormier said. “But let’s not go crazy and act as if Jon Jones hasn’t seen power before. He’s seen power. Nothing like the power of Ngannou, but I believe that what he has now may be a more difficult style matchup in Ciryl Gane...
“Ciryl Gane’s movement, and the way that he attacks is going to make him very difficult for Jones, because as good as Jones is, Jones isn’t a guy that moves very much,” he added. “He’s very stationary and going forward. He’s long, so he uses those long-range weapons to really take control of guys like me and other guys he’s fought in the octagon. But he’s not a guy that moves around and creates a ton of angles. A lot of straight and long-range weapons... The issue is with Ciryl Gane, you’re going to have a big guy who possesses a lot of those same qualities, with the ability to move. Go back and watch Jones, he’s pretty flatfooted. Gane isn’t.”