Early into Saturday’s UFC Vegas 67, the sign on the front of the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas featured a fight between Jon Jones and Ciryl Gane for March 4 that sent social media ablaze.
Did someone let the cat out of the bag too early?
Early into the ESPN broadcast of UFC Vegas 67 on Saturday, a photo (and subsequent video) began making the rounds on social media of a shot of the outside of the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas that featured a blockbuster bout between Jon Jones and Ciryl Gane for UFC 285 on March 4.
For what it's worth, two different photos of this UFC 285 billboard are circulating.
Jones vs. Gane for the heavyweight championship at UFC 285 would be incredible. pic.twitter.com/3aieyynDdk
— Aaron Bronsteter (@aaronbronsteter) January 14, 2023
Then, Jon Jones went and confirmed he’d be fighting Ciryl Gane next, in an interview with Henry Cejudo’s Youtube channel. Jones has been training with Cejudo at Fight Ready of late. The bigger news? Per both the T-Mobile Arena sign and Jones, the fight is for the heavyweight title.
“Day one of four, just a few weeks out from my first heavyweight championship against Ciryl Gane,” Jones said while discussing his recent visit to Fight Ready.
Just spoke with Jon Jones after a training session with @HenryCejudo in Phoenix. He confirms the upcoming heavyweight title fight with Cyril Gane, and also says he plans to have Cejudo in his corner if their schedules align. #UFC285 pic.twitter.com/3ItpnKY4ni
— Michael Wonsover (@The_MDubb) January 14, 2023
The UFC has yet to officially announce the match-up. As of this writing, Gane is in Las Vegas to support his teammate Nassourdine Imavov who is competing tonight in the main event. Notably, it is not unusual for Gane to be in attendance to corner and support Imavov as he was in attendance to support his teammate at events such as UFC 268 in 2021 as well.
That is not to say that the UFC could not have the fight in the works for the event, and the statement from Jones and massive banner on the T-Mobile certainly suggest as much. Several other sources have said the fight is a done deal, with verbal agreements in place.
It remains to be seen if the fight is for the undisputed heavyweight championship, or an interim championship, if indeed it does take place as expected.
While a bout between former light-heavyweight champion Jones and current heavyweight king Ngannou has been targeted for some time now, Ngannou’s coach spoke earlier this week to say that the bout was still “50/50” in terms of the likelihood of it happening on the March 4 date. Ngannou has been vocal about seeking a significant raise in pay and the freedom to pursue lucrative opportunities in boxing at the same time as his current deal is expected to be completed shortly. Ngannou has also been recovering from a knee surgery in 2022 that made March the earliest expected timeframe for the bout, but it is unknown if the heavyweight champion possibly needed more time before being physically ready for a bout.
The return of Jon Jones has been expected to be the biggest bout that could be made in the sport if and when it does occur. Jones last competed in February of 2020 where he defended his light-heavyweight title against Dominick Reyes for his 17th consecutive victory and 26th overall. Long-considered the best pound-for-pound fighter in mixed martial arts, Jones has teased a move up in weight for ten years now but his decision to vacate his title in 2020 led many to believe the move would finally happen in short order. Instead, the three years since his departure have led many to wonder if it will happen at all or if Jones will even compete again in mixed martial arts.
Gane was featured in one of the most successful events of 2022 when he fought Ngannou in a unification bout in January. While the former interim champion came up short that night, “Bon Gamin” returned to action in September where he headlined the UFC’s first event in France and stopped surging contender Tai Tuivasa in the third round.