On Monday, MMA Junkie’s Nolan King reported that the promotion has Jones penciled in to fight March 5 at UFC 285 in Las Vegas. Against whom remains up in the air, but the UFC’s preferred option is a title fight against champion Francis Ngannou.
Ngannou’s return on that date depends on two things: his recovery from knee surgery earlier this year and his contract status with the UFC. With or without Ngannou, the UFC is set on booking Jones at UFC 285, with Gane and Blaydes as viable options.
Neither man has a problem with welcoming Jones to the division.
“March sounds great for the start of #StrapSeason,” Gane tweeted Tuesday. “Ngannou, Jones, Blaydes, I don’t care: It’s anytime, anyone, anywhere.”
March sounds great for the start of #StrapSeason 😏
Ngannou, Jones, Blaydes, I don't care : it's anytime, anyone, anywhere. pic.twitter.com/FBn3vqbYwX
— Ciryl Gane (@ciryl_gane) November 22, 2022
“Not sure how legit this is but if this fight happens, I’ll be ready for 5 rounds,” Blaydes wrote on Instagram.
Jones (26-1 MMA, 20-1 UFC), 35, hasn’t competed since February 8, 2020, when he narrowly defeated Dominick Reyes at UFC 247 to retain the light heavyweight belt. Shortly after, Jones vacated the 205-pound title and announced his intention to move up to heavyweight. He’s spent more than two years training and bulking up his body to compete with the division’s best.
Gane (11-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC), 32, was interim heavyweight champion after finishing Derrick Lewis by TKO in August 2021. He lost a title unifier to Ngannou by unanimous decision this past January but rebounded with a third-round knockout of Tai Tuivasa in September.
Blaydes (17-3 MMA, 12-3 YFC), 31, is on a three-fight winning streak with victories against Jarizinho Rozenstruik, Chris Daukaus and most recently Tom Aspinall by injury TKO in July. He’s won seven of his past eight bouts, with his only defeat a February 2021 knockout against Lewis.