Francis Ngannou is not holding his breath for a long-awaited, deeply demanded fight with Jon Jones. The appetite for a UFC heavyweight championship fight matching Ngannou vs. Jones only increased following Ngannou’s victory over interim champion Ciryl Gane at UFC 270.
Jones, the former UFC light heavyweight champion, has not stepped foot inside a UFC cage since February 2020. He has been very active on social media, however. In a recent podcast appearance, Ngannou suggested that Jones’ priorities may not be solely devoted to a UFC return.
“I think the first thing we have to know is if Jon Jones is going to fight or not,” Ngannou said on Bruce Buffer’s IT’S TIME podcast. “Because actually, he finds himself a better battle on Twitter than in the Octagon. The past has shown that in the heavyweight division, they can wait for a year for a title defense… We’ve been having one title defense [per year] in the heavyweight division for a long time, so I don’t think that’s the issue.”
Shak’s take: Ngannou vs. Jones is in a weird spot. Promotionally, the fight makes sense now more than ever. Heavyweight lacks a clear contender and Ngannou has successfully defended his championship in a division with historically limited success for champions. Unfortunately, Jones’ UFC return is always in flux and Ngannou remains tied in contract disputes with UFC president Dana White and company.
More UFC news, rumors
- Kevin Lee is moving camps. Once seen as a frontrunner to become UFC lightweight champion, Lee is now on a 2-5 slump dating back to April 2018. No longer on UFC’s roster, Lee seeks to reinvent himself in Khabib Nurmagomedov’s Eagle FC. Lee recently told MMA Junkie that he is switching camps to Sanford MMA in Fort Lauderdale. “I feel like now I’m getting that fresh start that I really need: New promotion, new team, new place to live, new training environment,” Lee said. “Even though it was hard to leave Las Vegas and leaving all my training partners and coaches that I’ve grown over the years with, this is a new exciting part of my life to start.”
- Shak’s take: If anyone can lift Lee from his recent woes, it’s Sanford MMA. Led by Henri Hooft and Greg Jones, the camp has morphed Kamaru Usman, Michael Chandler, Gilbert Burns and Derek Brunson, among others, into serious divisional threats.
- Jake Paul claims many of the UFC’s top athletes are silently standing behind him in his advocacy against White. Paul released a diss track maligning White’s business practices and unfair treatment of fighters. Paul sympathizes with fighters who are hesitant to speak out publicly against the promotion. “There a lot of fighters — a lot of big fighters in the UFC — who message me privately and say, ‘We love this, this is hilarious. Keep on going, but I can’t support this publicly,'” Paul said Monday on The MMA Hour. “I don’t want them to sacrifice… They have to put food on their family’s table. Like I said earlier, I happen to have a platform to be able to do this. So I accept the responsibility and I’m going to do it. I’ve made that decision. I’m going to war and I’m not backing down no matter what happens. I don’t need the fighters in the UFC to support this.”
- Shak’s take: Paul is the embodiment of pro-wrestling in MMA and boxing. He entered the picture as a brat and bully, leveraging his fanbase and brash personality into big boxing paydays. This transformation into a vocal and high-profile advocate for fighters’ rights has won over a lot of his detractors. Paul will straddle the line between good guy and bad guy (also called a tweener) when the circumstances call for it; however, it seems his personal relationship with combat athletes has invigorated a desire to support historically underpaid and contractually handcuffed fighters.
- Paul Daley is prepared to lay his gloves down for good. Daley announced on Monday’s episode of The MMA Hour that he intends to retire from the sport in front of his countrymen. Daley, 38, is scheduled to fight for Bellator on May 13 in the U.K. against a to-be-announced opponent. “It will be my retirement fight… After many years in the game, the hours on the road, hours in the gym, the years have caught up with me and now every morning I wake up with a bad back, and I’m just tired,” Daley, a 19-year MMA veteran, said. “I’ve put in a lot of time in the sport and I’m in a position to retire, fortunately. So yeah, I’m going to retire. I don’t want to be one of those fighters who’s getting knocked out all the time by the younger guys. I want to be a guy who goes out when I want to go out.”
- Shak’s take: Kudos to Daley. His final fight will be his 88th professional combat sports fight (64 in MMA, 24 in kickboxing). The veteran of Bellator, Strikeforce and UFC has authored several memorable moments over his career. He threw down with Nick Diaz and Sabah Homasi, and tried to sucker punch Josh Kosheck after their 2010 UFC fight. He beat the likes of Jorge Masvidal, Martin Kampmann and Lorenz Larkin, and notched 34 knockouts in MMA.