Updated January 14, 2023 - 7:24 pm
UFC star Jon Jones is finally set to return to action for the first time in more than two years.
Jones, considered the greatest light heavyweight in mixed martial arts history, will make his heavyweight debut for the vacant belt against former title challenger Ciryl Gane in the main event of UFC 285 on March 4 at T-Mobile Arena.
The fight was first revealed by a mobile billboard at T-Mobile Arena on Saturday afternoon, though officials said at the time nothing was official. Jones spoke after a training session in Phoenix later Saturday and said he was in line to fight Gane in March.
UFC president Dana White then ended the speculation late Saturday at the Apex in Las Vegas, after the UFC Fight Night 217 card that saw Sean Strickland defeat Nassourdine Imavov by unanimous decision in the main event.
White confirmed the fight will happen and that the T-Mobile Arena billboard was displayed prematurely, scooping the formal unveiling of the bout.
“I was very, very angry a few hours ago,” White said. “I’m over it now.”
The announcement of the fight means heavyweight champion and Las Vegas resident Francis Ngannou has been stripped of his belt and will become a free agent. He suffered a knee injury in his victory over Gane in January 2022 and has been in a contract standoff with the UFC during his recovery.
White said the UFC has released Ngannou of all contractual obligations, including any matching rights, and added that Jones has signed a new eight-fight deal as part of this agreement.
Jones last stepped in the cage in February 2020 when he narrowly held on to the light heavyweight title with a controversial decision over Dominick Reyes. It was his record 14th win in a UFC title bout, but the belt was soon vacated as Jones announced he would pursue a move to heavyweight for what was expected to be a potentially massive payday against Ngannou.
While Jones, the older brother of Raiders edge defender Chandler Jones, has not added to his fight record in the last two years, he has continued to build up his rap sheet.
Jon Jones was charged with aggravated DWI after allegedly discharging a firearm in downtown Albuquerque, New Mexico, in March 2020.
In 2021, he was arrested in front of Caesars Palace after hotel security called police about an allegation of domestic violence committed by Jones against his then-fiancee. On video, he challenged one of the arresting officers to a fight and made several threats. The domestic violence charge was later dropped, though Jones was ordered to pay restitution for the damage he did when he head-butted a police vehicle.