Mark RaimondiESPN staff writer3 minutes to read
LAS VEGAS – In mixed martial arts, there has been Jon Jones and then everyone else for over a decade. After gaining weight and being away three years, absolutely nothing has changed.
Jones defeated Ciryl Gane with a guillotine choke at 2 minutes and 4 seconds into the first round on Saturday night in the main event of UFC 285 at T-Mobile Arena. Jones is now the UFC Heavyweight Champion after owning the light heavyweight division for years. He was already considered the greatest MMA fighter, and this victory left no discussion.
“I’ve been working towards this for a long time,” Jones said in his post-fight interview. “A lot of people thought I wouldn’t come back. I was loyal to my purpose. I was loyal to the mission. There were days when I didn’t want to train, and I was always there.”
Honestly, Jones made the whole thing look easy. He lowered Gene and placed him in a sitting position in front of the cage and locked him in a chokehold. It was funky. Jean seemed safe. But Jones put the pressure on, and Gene had to click.
The submission was the third fastest in the UFC Heavyweight Championship match. Andrei Arlovski introduced Tim Sylvia in 47 seconds at UFC 51, and Frank Mir introduced Sylvia in 50 seconds at UFC 48.
“I’ve been wrestling since I was twelve,” said Jones. “I feel stronger and more comfortable on the ground than ever before. … Once I got my hands on it, I knew that was where I felt most comfortable and could control it.”
Jones has not fought since February 2020. He relinquished the light heavyweight belt in August 2020, preparing to move up to heavyweight. Jones wanted time to move in the right way – and he got it. He’s gained over 25 pounds of muscle, weighing in at 248 pounds on Friday after being a 205-pound fighter his entire career.
UFC President Dana White said Jones went into the octagon and treated Jin “like he was just a little kid.”
“I’m a big believer in ring rust,” White said. “We couldn’t see any ring rust. Who knows if there was ring rust? It just came in and there was nothing, like the easiest thing in the world. It’s out of nature.”
Jones has talked about moving up to heavyweight back in 2012. He has never lost in the cage, with his only defeat coming on a controversial disqualification in a match he controlled. Jones is now the third fighter to win the UFC Heavyweight and Light Heavyweight titles, joining Randy Couture and Daniel Cormier, and the eighth fighter to win titles in two different divisions.
The UFC Heavyweight title has been vacated by former champion Francis Ngannou, who left the UFC as a free agent earlier this year.
Jones’ victory sets up a match with Stipe Miocic, the most successful heavyweight fighter in UFC history and a two-time former champion.
“Do you want to see me hit Step?” Jones said in an interview with the appraiser. “One thing I know about the UFC is that we give fans what they want to see. Stipe Miocic, I hope you train, my man. You’re the greatest heavyweight ever. That’s what I want. I want you really bad.”
Jones (27-1, 1 NC) owns UFC records for longest undefeated streak (19), victories in title fights (15) and title defenses (11, tied with Demetrius Johnson). The New York native, who lives and trains in Albuquerque, New Mexico, scored a win over Dominic Reyes in his final fight to defend the 205-pound title.
Jones, 35, was also the youngest fighter to win a UFC title at 23 in 2011.
It was Jones’ first win since 2018 and his first since 2012.
“I’ve been aware of high praises for a while now,” said Jones. “I am well aware that pride comes before a fall… I know that grounding myself will be more important than ever.”
Jan (11-2), 32, was knocked out by a third-round knockout of Tai Toivasa in September. The only other loss of his MMA career came in a unanimous decision defeat to Ngannou for the UFC Heavyweight Title in January 2022 at UFC 270. Gane said he was “angry” with himself for the loss.
“It hurts so much,” Jin said. “This is a real loss. Now, it’s the past. I have to move forward to see the future. I’m going straight back to the gym.”
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