Coach Eric Nicksick has provided a significant update on the chances of UFC Heavyweight Champion Francis Ngannou welcoming Jon Jones to the division in 2023, which Jones apparently was not made aware of.
Since vacating the light heavyweight title in 2020 shortly after his successful defense against Dominick Reyes at UFC 247, Jones has had his sights set on adding championship glory in a second weight class to his résumé.
What’s followed has been a period of uncertainty that’s spanned over two years. But having displayed a bulked-up physique in training videos and stepped up comments about a return on social media, it appeared that 2022 may be the year fans get to see the former two-time titleholder back inside the Octagon.
With heavyweight king Ngannou sidelined through a knee injury, talk turned to a possible clash with Stipe Miocic, perhaps with an interim strap on the line. But despite Jones appearing ready for dates in the summer, September, and December, it appears that delays out of his control will see him watch another calendar year go by.
A report earlier this month suggested that should the UFC be unable to book Jones’ return for UFC 282, attention will turn towards the undisputed champ. Judging by recent remarks from Dana White, the December 10 date is off the table.
Now, during an appearance on MMA Junkie Radio, Xtreme Couture’s Nicksick has confirmed that the promotion has made inquiries about his man’s health and return to training. Recalling a phone conversation he had with a UFC executive, Ngannou’s coach revealed he was assured that a bout with Jones is now the plan for 2023.
“A UFC exec called and basically said, ‘Hey, what is your ideal timeline, and what is your ideal matchup?’” Nicksick said. “Does it matter what my opinion is? No, but it is nice that they called and asked. I said ideally I would want March, and ideally, I would want Jon Jones. The person that called agreed one million percent that this is what (the UFC) would like, as well. That is what Francis would like. They’re calling to figure out timeline on injury and how long I would need to get him ready.” (h/t MMA Junkie)
Nicksick Explains Why He Wants Jones’ HW Debut To Be vs. Ngannou
Interestingly, Nicksick also went on to explain why he wants to see Jones immediately challenge for gold upon his arrival in the heavyweight division.
According to the renowned trainer, a matchup with a contender will provide the former two-time light heavyweight king with the chance to taste action at the higher weight and adjust prior to a meeting in the cage with “The Predator.”
“I don’t want Jon Jones to be able to take a fight before us,” Nicksick said. “I want him to have to figure everything out in the cage with Francis, not go fight Stipe and maybe win a decision and then go back to the drawing board and go, ‘OK, here’s the things I need to fix and get better at’ and then come out a better version.
“Where Jon Jones is so good is that he gets those reps. He understands, ‘OK, I can fix this, I could fix that.’ He’s not actually a guy who’s gonna walk around at heavyweight. He’s building himself up to fight at heavyweight. He’s adding muscle to a frame that naturally isn’t a heavyweight frame. So that muscle is gonna command a certain amount of oxygen and cardio.”
In contrast, Jones has previously noted that he’d prefer to test the heavyweight waters against Miocic. But rather than seeking some form of tune-up bout before challenging for the belt, “Bones” suggested that a collision with the Ohio native would ‘say more’ than if he were to beat “one-dimensional” Ngannou upon his return from injury. In fact, moments after Nicksick’s comments went public, Jones doubled down on his plans.
“I’m preparing to fight Stipe December 10 in Las Vegas. Not really sure what’s going on between Stipe and the UFC but I’m ready to compete! I’m going to control what I can and stay in shape,” Jones wrote moments ago.
Who do you think will win if this matchup reaches the cage, Jon Jones or Francis Ngannou?