Monday, December 5, 2022

MMA Tracker: Massive Jon Jones & Sean O’Malley News, Much More

Good morning, MMA fans! Welcome to the MMA News Tracker! Here are some of the latest happenings across the world of MMA.

Jon Jones’ Targeted Return Date & Potential Next Opponent

It turns out that Jon Jones’ next fight may not be against Stipe Miocic or Francis Ngannou.

Recently, Dana White extinguished the idea that Jones would be facing Miocic next, with Ngannou being the targeted next opponent for Jones. A report from MMA Junkie has now revealed that the precise date the UFC wants Jones to return is on March 5 at UFC 285.

However, between Ngannou’s stagnant contract negotiations and his unclear recovery timetable from knee surgery, there’s a chance that Ngannou may not be ready to face Jones on this date.

The report went on to state that ready or not, Jones will be coming to Las Vegas on March 5 if the UFC has anything to say about it. And if neither Miocic nor Ngannou are prepared to be his opponent, they are looking at Curtis Blaydes to face Jones instead.

Curtis Blaydes
Image Credit: Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC

There is no word on if this fight would be for an interim or vacant title, nor is there any word on what is the likelihood of that bout being made. You can be sure, though, that MMA News will keep you updated on the exhausting anticipation of Jon Jones’ heavyweight debut.

Zhang Weili Still Wants Fight With Valentina Shevchenko

Zhang Weili

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Three years ago, after Zhang Weili dethroned Jéssica Andrade to win the UFC strawweight championship for the first time, she explained why she wanted to fight women’s flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko.

Since then, Shevchenko has remained perched atop her division while the strawweight throne has served as an ever-rotating door.

At UFC 281 earlier this month, Zhang was able to serve as the temporary doorstopper when she submitted Carla Esparza to become a two-time champion. And not unlike three years ago, she has opened up on the thought of a champ-champ showdown against Shevchenko (h/t PressReader).

“I think it would be a great fight. It’s one I’ve considered before. She is a very versatile fighter with a complete package. I hope it can be arranged whenever UFC sees fit.”

As of now, neither Zhang or Shevchenko are booked. However, if Shevchenko were to take part in a superfight, it may be more likely that she takes on reigning double champ Amanda Nunes in a trilogy fight instead, as that has been an oft-discussed bout for years now.

Julianna Peña Levels Up

Speaking of Amanda Nunes trilogies, Julianna Peña is staying busy as she awaits word on if she’ll get her wish of facing “The Lioness” in a rubber match. Over the weekend, the former bantamweight champ re-tweeted the following post which celebrated her promotion to a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

“Congrats to @VenezuelanVixen who received her Brown belt in BJJ!! What a journey.”

Will we be seeing this “Vixen” put her new tricks to use against The Lionness in 2023? Stay tuned!

Fedor Plans To Honor Khabib’s Late Father Abdulmanap

Fedor Emelianenko
Fedor Emelianenko (Image Credit: Hans Gutknecht/MediaNews Group/The Los Angeles Daily News)

Last week, it was announced that Fedor would be having his retirement MMA fight against Ryan Bader for the Bellator heavyweight championship in February 2023. However, Fedor is also playing the matchmaker for others to some degree, with the Russian MMA legend planning to hold a tournament in honor of Khabib Nurmagomedov‘s late father Abdulmanap (h/t news.sportbox.ru).

“We’ll talk about that,” Fedor said regarding Russian holding international MMA tournaments. “We will look for support. There is no such news yet. We are planning tournaments in Russia. Annual master tournament in Stavropol, Novosibirsk, master tournament in memory of Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov in Saratov.”

Dan Ige vs. Damon Jackson Reported For January

Edson Barboza Dan Ige
Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

During an appearance on the Against The Fence podcast, Damon Jackson revealed that he will be fighting Dan Ige at a UFC Fight Night Event on January 14, 2023. Ige is currently ranked #12 in the featherweight division but is on a three-fight losing streak. Meanwhile, Jackson, on the other hand, is the winner of four straight.

It would appear that if Ige wants to remain in the rankings, a win here is mandatory, while a Jackson victory would all but guarantee his arrival in the top 15.

Sean O’Malley Shares Big News On Next Fight

Sean O'Malley
Zuffa LLC

Following UFC 280, which saw Aljamain Sterling successfully retain his bantamweight title against T.J. Dillashaw and Sean O’Malley defeat Petr Yan, there have been questions about what is next for the division’s title picture.

While O’Malley being the #1 contender would, on the surface, seem like the logical next move, Henry Cejudo and Dana White appear to have other plans, with Triple C reportedly being the preferred next opponent for Sterling.

Sterling, however, has other ideas. He believes the timing is optimal for a fight against “Suga” Sean. But what does O’Malley think?

During an interview with ESPN released Monday evening, O’Malley stated that he is in no rush to compete for the title, stating that he expects to return in July.

He did reveal that the UFC brass assured him that his next fight will be for the title, despite him recently pitching an interim title fight against Marlon Vera. He went on to suggest that Sterling fight Cejudo in March, with O’Malley facing the winner in the summer.

MMA News will keep you posted on this suspenseful story.

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