Jon Jones (26-1, 1 NC) will make his long-awaited heavyweight debut when he faces Ciryl Gane (11-1) for the title at UFC 285 on March 4.
UFC boss Dana White confirmed the news on Saturday night, also announcing incumbent Francis Ngannou was no longer the heavyweight champion and was free to sign a deal elsewhere.
Ngannou, who has been sidelined with a knee injury for nearly 12 months, found himself at an impasse in contract negotiations with the UFC.
Francis Ngannou is officially clear to sign a deal with someone else. White says they are going to wave any right to match and let him go elsewhere. He is no longer the UFC heavyweight champion. White says they offered him a deal that would have made him the highest paid HW ever.
— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) January 15, 2023
Jones, who holds a host of UFC records following his dominant reign as light-heavyweight champion, will now face former interim champion Gane for the title at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena.
Now 35, “Bones” hasn’t fought since February 2020 as he prepared to make the jump up to heavyweight.
Gane, who defeated Derrick Lewis to win the interim title at UFC 265, will be fighting for the undisputed title for the second time – he fell short when losing a unanimous decision to Ngannou at UFC 270.
— Ciryl Gane (@ciryl_gane) January 15, 2023
Last time out, the 32-year-old overcame a knockdown to stop Tai Tuivasa in the UFC’s maiden event in his native France back in September.
The Jones-Gane clash and Ngannou update weren’t the only big announcements made by White, who also confirmed welterweight champion Leon Edwards (20-3, 1 NC) would complete his trilogy with Kamaru Usman (20-2) at UFC 286 in London on March 18.
Edwards’ last-minute headkick knockout of the then-pound-for-pound number one in August squared the ledger between the pair and turned him into an instant superstar.
“Rocky”, 31, can expect to have a partisan crowd well and truly on his side when he faces Usman at the O2 Arena.
[ Get your tickets early at https://t.co/C6eU8mzrqg 🎟 ] pic.twitter.com/BADUYhFIdc
— UFC (@ufc) January 15, 2023
In the co-main event in London, Justin Gaethje will take on Rafael Fiziev in what promises to be an all-action affair for as long as it lasts.