Jones to return to face Gane at UFC 285 as Ngannou makes his exit

Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Jon Jones will return to the octagon for the first time since February 2020 when he takes on Ciryl Gane for the vacant heavyweight title at UFC 285.

The fight for the March 4 event in Las Vegas was announced on Saturday by UFC President Dana White, who also confirmed that heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou – who many expected to be Jones' opponent – is leaving the organisation.

Ngannou has a 17-3-0 record, but White confirmed the Cameroonian wanted to seek other opportunities and the UFC has agreed to release him from his contract.

"We did everything we could to try and make this fight happen and try to give him a fight, but he has got it in his head that there are bigger opportunities outside of UFC with lesser opponents," White said, also confirming he had offered to make Ngannou the best-paid fighter in the history of the company.

"We're going to let him do that. We're going to release him from his contract. We're going to give up our right to match and he can go wherever he wants and do whatever he wants."

Jones will now instead face Gane, whose only loss in an 11-1-0 career came by unanimous decision against Ngannou in a heavyweight title bout at UFC 270 last January.

It will be the 35-year-old Jones' debut at heavyweight, having gone 26-1-0 (1 no contest) at light-heavyweight, before he gave up his title at that weight following a dispute over pay.