Exiled Ngannou Muscles into UFC Heavyweight Landscape

“UFC Championship Belt” by Andrius Petrucenia (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Despite being the hottest free agent in combat sports following his self-imposed UFC exile last month, Francis Ngannou can’t help but set his sights back on the heavyweight title picture.

The hard-hitting Cameroonian has been pursuing a lucrative career in boxing following his decision to walk away and vacate the UFC’s heavyweight title at the start of the year. But that’s not stopped him weighing in on the prospects of former light heavyweight supremo Jon Jones – the man he was originally expected to defend his now-vacant belt against.

The betting odds on Jones vs Gane have ‘Bones’ as the -175 favorite to step up this Saturday and claim the title from the former interim heavyweight champion; who himself saw his solitary MMA loss come at the hands of ‘The Predator’.

The Frenchman fell well short on that occasion in January 2022 but has since rebounded with a vicious knockout victory over Tui Tuivasa. For Jones, this will be his first contest since scraping a decision win over Dominic Reyes three years ago.

Ngannou Backs Jones Inside the Distance

In an interview with The Schmo from his gym at Xtreme Couture, Ngannou noted that Gane will have a tough time dealing with Jones’ wrestling ability, but that the outcome of the fight depends on “which Jon Jones turns up” – a veiled reference to Jones’ controversial past and how those struggles may weigh on his performance in the Octagon.

However, the 36-year-old went on to back Jones by TKO inside three rounds if the fight plays into his hands – though suggested it was likely to go the distance if Gane is able to neutralise Jones’ strengths with a cautious approach.

The T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas plays host to UFC 285 on Saturday. Headlined by the aforementioned Jones vs Gane for the heavyweight title, long-running champion Valentina Shevchenko defends her women’s flyweight strap against Alexa Grasso in the co-main event.

Ngannou’s fight-week commentary hasn’t been limited to discussing Jones’ prospects in the fight itself. The two also engaged in a war of words on Twitter, with Ngannou taking aim at Jones’ alleged hypocrisy:

Calculated Move by Cameroonian

Ngannou’s self-imposition back into the UFC heavyweight title picture at a time when all eyes are on the 265lb division is cleverly calculated. The headlines around him have quietened in recent weeks, as the heavyweight boxing landscape he looks to insert himself into also moves on without his presence.

While it seems that his impassé with the UFC will continue long into 2023, the Cameroonian has ensured he remains relevant at a time when MMA fans will inevitably start the ‘what next?’ speculation about the heavyweight title – a belt he was never defeated for – whatever the result this weekend.

author avatar
MyMMANews - We cover everything from MMA, BJJ, Bare Knuckle, Wrestling, Boxing, Kickboxing, and Judo News, Opinions, Videos, Radio Shows, Photos and more.