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Jon Jones: Delayed return ‘nothing to do with money or being upset with the UFC’

Jon Jones insists that his delayed heavyweight debut wasn’t because of negotiation issues with the UFC.

Jones (26-1 MMA, 20-1 UFC) finally returns from three-year layoff when he faces Ciryl Gane (11-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC) for the vacant heavyweight title in Saturday’s UFC 285 headliner at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPN and early prelims on ESPN+.

Two years ago, Jones asked for his UFC release, expressing his frustration with his pay. He then hired former Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer as his advisor, who recently said Jones struck a deal that made him the second highest paid fighter behind Conor McGregor. Despite all that, Jones said his heavyweight debut taking this long was not linked to money.

“The prolonging of my heavyweight debut had nothing to do with money or being upset with the UFC or anything like that,” Jones told ESPN. “I just wanted to be at my best when I did come back, and I felt like I was ready to go about a year ago. We needed to figure out opponents, and there was just a lot of moving parts in the UFC, but now we’re here. We got Ciryl Gane, and I feel like all the stars are just aligned for me right now.”

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Jones said after watching former champion Francis Ngannou defend his heavyweight title against Gane at UFC 270, he felt becoming dual champ was very attainable.

“I started thinking about it the day that I decided that I was going to go up to heavyweight,” Jones said. “My goal for three years now is to become the heavyweight champion of the world. It’s what I pray about, it’s what I sleep on, it’s what I dream about. It is who I am, and I will get it done.”

He continued, “I just feel it in my whole being that I’m the best fighter on the planet, and now my job is just to prove it.”

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 285.

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie