Jon Jones has been rumoured to be making his highly anticipated return and heavyweight debut in 2023.
The UFC have two opponents in mind to welcome the former light heavyweight champion to the division, current heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou and No.3 ranked Curtis Blaydes.
Ngannou has been side-lined since January following knee surgery after making the first defence of his heavyweight crown against Ciryl Gane at UFC 270. It’s not guaranteed that Ngannou will make the second defence of his championship, given his ongoing contractual issues with the company.
UFC president Dana White’s ideal scenario is to have Ngannou clash with Jones for the heavyweight title. However, if the pair can’t come to an agreement, White has conducted a back-up plan in the form of the wrestling heavy, Blaydes.
Former MMA referee turned analyst John McCarthy commented on the situation with Josh Thomson on their Weighing In podcast.
John McCarthy weighs-in on Jon Jones heavyweight debut
“If Jon Jones comes back and fights Francis Ngannou, that’s awesome,” said McCarthy. “That means Francis has signed a new contract with the UFC and he’s gonna be under their domain for a while and that’s fine. If they don’t sign Francis and he ends up going somewhere else, you’re bringing in Curtis Blaydes. That’s a great matchup in the heavyweight division for Jon. It’s someone that… Curtis has looked super good in the wrestling aspect. His stand-up has gotten really good. He’s long. Big guy.”
As every fighter knows, father time is undefeated in this sport. Jones has been extremely inactive over the years, and it’s been nearly three years since we last saw him in action over Dominick Reyes. At 35, and testing his skills in a new weight class, former UFC and Bellator veteran Josh Thompson questions the version of Jones we’ll see.
Josh Thomson has his say
“This is definitely going to be an unpopular opinion, what I’m about to say,” Thomson said. “Curtis Blaydes to me is the tougher fight. Not the more dangerous fight. The tougher fight.
“Curtis Blaydes has more tools, more weapons, and will give Jones a little bit of a fit in the wrestling area. Maybe not enough to make him work hard. I think he will, I just don’t want to overcompensate. I have small hands. That’s what I do around here. I’m just seriously trying to say here that Curtis Blaydes can wrestle him. Can stand with him a little bit. Doesn’t want to get carried away on the feet, but what we’re not taking into consideration, Jon Jones may not have the conditioning that we all think at the heavyweight division.
“He may be a little bit where he may slow down. He is getting older and this has been three years off. He’s not old, but he’s been off for three years. That initial fight pace. That initial getting in there. You’re fighting at a faster pace than you can train at.”
Quotes via Middle Easy
Blaydes holds a credible (17-3) record with his only losses coming against the current champion Ngannou twice, and heavyweight knockout artist Derrick Lewis. Many believe Blaydes wrestling accolades will be enough to give Jones an uncomfortable first test at heavyweight.
Watch John McCarthy and Josh Thomson discuss Jones vs. Blaydes
Do you agree with Josh Thompson, or do you anticipate the same Jon Jones to show up?