June 28th. It has been a long time since Jon Jones last stepped into the octagon for a UFC fight, and to be precise, since February 2020.
There was also time for Stipe Miocic. The two-time UFC heavyweight champion has not fought since March 2021, when he lost by knockout in the second round to Francis Ngannou, who won the title belt from Miocic with this knockout.
There have been rumors that Jones and Miocic have been fighting for months now, with UFC President Dana White talking about a possible bout that is sure to generate a lot of buzz and hype.
During The Jim Rome Show, White said that Jones – a former light heavyweight champion facing a heavyweight for the first time – is ready to make his heavyweight debut.
“We’re just waiting for an opponent,” White told Rome. “It will either be Francis – depending on how long his knee takes to recover – or Stipe Miocic.”
Ngannou underwent knee surgery in March and recently said he was in the process of rehabilitating his knee. Ngannou hopes to fight again before the end of 2022. His last fight was in January when he defeated interim champion Cyril Gein at UFC 270.
“If everything goes well, I’ll be ready by the end of the year because it’s going to be nine months,” Ngannou recently told TMZ. “(I want to go back) at the end of December or early next year.”
Meanwhile, Miocic, who turns 40 in August, is working out at his Strong Style gym in Independence, according to his trainer Marcus Marinelli. The training wasn’t up to par with what he usually goes through preparing for a title fight.
“(Stipe) has been training, training,” Marinelli told The News-Herald June 10. He comes and helps with some boxers. He’s not here every day, but a couple of days a week.”
Rumors about Jones-Miocic began when they were supposed to meet on July 2 in Las Vegas. According to the latest rumors, they had a fight in the autumn.
On April 26, Jones tweeted: “Stipe says he will be at his absolute peak in September. I am disappointed, but patient, I want the heavyweight goat to show his best qualities. I’ll wait until September. No excuses.”
Stipe says he will be at his peak in September. I’m disappointed but patient, I want the heavyweight goat to do his best. I’ll wait until September. no excuses
— BONY (@JonnyBones) April 26, 2022
The news that Ngannou wants his next fight before the end of 2022 could put Miocic (20-4) on the fence. If Ngannou (17-3) agrees to fight Jones, Miocic will likely have to wait until 2023 for his return. This could see Miocic take on the winner of the Jones-Ngannou tournament for the UFC Heavyweight Championship.
Or Ngannou himself could have waited, watched Jones-Miocic, and fought the winner of this fight. There are also rumors that White is arranging a fight between Jones and Miocic for the interim heavyweight title.
How this will play out for Jones is a big question mark, as well as how Jones will perform after his return. First, it is unknown how Jones (26-1) will adapt to heavyweight competition. Second, his likely return in the fall will mark nearly three years since he last fought.
“It’s very interesting because I’m a firm believer in ring rust,” White said of Jones’ long absence from the UFC. “But despite all the negative things you could say about Jon Jones, his personal life and things like that, he is the best. He’s definitely the best of all time.”
Miocic is also going through his own layoff, turning 16 months old in July. Marinelli said that when and if a contract is signed to fight Jones, Miocic will be ready.
“Grinding is hard. How many five-round fights did he prepare for? Marinelli said. “I train for a five-round fight again and again and again and again and again. He’s the headliner (UFC cards) and it exhausts you mentally, physically, spiritually, in every possible way. So I think he’s just enjoying life and living without that pressure.”