A win at UFC 285 won’t change much for Jon Jones – not with Francis Ngannou and Stipe Miocic around
Jon Jones returns to action on Saturday when he faces Ciryl Gane in the main event of UFC 285. The fight’s winner will leave T-Mobile Arena with the (currently vacant) UFC heavyweight title. If Jones is the victor, he will become a two-division champion, which is a major accomplishment, especially since he hasn’t fought for over three years. However, as laudable as that achievement may be, it will not change his standing when it comes to the discussion as to where Jones lands among the greatest MMA fighters of all time.
Jones’ light heavyweight resume is impressive and his run at 205 pounds under the UFC banner puts him squarely in the GOAT conversation. Some fans and pundits wouldn’t hesitate to put him at the top of that discussion. For those who consider Jones the best MMA fighter of all time, a win over Gane will likely solidify his standing as the best ever.
However, for anyone who remains on the fence regarding where Jones stands in the pantheon of all-time greats, or for those who believe Jones is not the GOAT, a win over Gane will not move him to the top of that list. After all, there are better heavyweight fighters in MMA than Gane. If Gane were the best UFC heavyweight, he’d already have the UFC heavyweight title around his waist. He doesn’t. And the belt is not in his possession because of his loss to Francis Ngannou in their title unification bout in January 2022. The UFC, Jones and Gane can all act as if Ngannou doesn’t exist, but he does and he left the UFC as the champion. Indeed, he doesn’t technically hold the promotional title anymore, but one would be hard-pressed to find someone who could say, with a straight face, that Ngannou is not the best heavyweight in MMA right now.
Ngannou is one reason Jones won’t elevate himself to GOAT status with a win over Gane. The second reason is Stipe Miocic.
Miocic is the man who surrendered the title to Ngannou in March 2021 after Ngannou scored a knockout win over him. Miocic is also the man who is still under contract with the UFC and the only fighter who successfully defended the UFC heavyweight crown three times before losing the belt. That stretch includes a win over Ngannou.
In short, I won’t attempt to dissuade those who already have Jones installed as the MMA GOAT. After all, that argument can be made — and defended. But, on the other hand, elevating Jones to best-ever status in the aftermath of UFC 285 — if he wins — doesn’t make sense, not as long as Francis Ngannou and Stipe Miocic are active fighters.
UFC 285 takes place at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday, March 4. The main card streams on ESPN+ pay-per-view following prelims on ESPN and early prelims on ESPN+.