The UFC heavyweight division is highly under discussion nowadays. With Ngannou's future uncertain and Jon Jones' potential return and heavyweight debut, the heavyweight title situation is at a fascinating point. With Stipe Miocic standing at #1 in the division, Curtis Blaydes with a 3-fight win streak as well as the winner of the UFC Paris headliner between Ciryl Gane and Tai Tuivasa give rise to several options for the current champion Francis Ngannou to defend his title.
Recently, Ngannou’s coach Eric Nicksick revealed that if he is given a free choice to choose the next opponent for his student, he would probably choose the finest available pick which is Jon Jones. Jones has signaled his return to the octagon in a tweet at UFC 282. But as reported by Ariel Helwani, it won’t be happening at UFC 282 on December 10, 2022, despite the promotion’s desire for the match-up.
“The fight that makes the most sense is obviously Jon Jones,” Nicksick told MMA Fighting.
“That’s the fight we all want. The way I look at it is, Jon Jones has been out for two and a half years. If we can’t do it in December and depending on the way the UFC schedule plays out, maybe [it can happen] in January or February, somewhere in that timeline."
“Jon hasn’t fought in so long, Stipe hasn’t fought since Francis beat him, so that will be two years for Stipe in March, so might as well wait another month for the super fight and the fight to make."
“Honestly, for me, I’d love the Stipe fight again, or the Jones fight, but if I had my choice between the two, obviously I want to compete against the best to ever do it, in my opinion, and that’s Jon Jones.”
Following a successful title defense against Gane at UFC 270, Ngannou is now on the road to recovery from knee surgery. Ngannou's future as a fighter for the UFC is still in doubt. Although he has acknowledged the concerns associated with his contract, he confirmed that it will expire at the end of the year. Ngannou has been very vocal in media since his contract issue risen due to the fighter’s demand for an improved pay structure.
Dana White, the president of the UFC, has also expressed to have spoken with Ngannou several times since the bout in January and has given assurance that the organization will sign him again since rumors were circulating regarding his exhibition money fight with Tyson Fury. "The Predator" has also given an expected return date which is December 2022 or early 2023 as he is still in the rehabilitation period following his surgery.
His coach has also told that Ngannou will be traveling to Paris for the main event where he will be looking at his possible opponents and learning about their tactical approaches to the fight between the former interim champion Gane and Tuivasa. From there he would be traveling back to Las Vegas for further examination of his knee.
“Once he gets back home and the [UFC Performance Institute] reevaluates him — because he was home for the last month to see where his knee is at — and I speak to [his manager] regularly to see what’s going on with the business side of everything, and I don’t think December is going to be a realistic timeline with where he’s at with the rehab. I think it’s only been five months because he had the surgery in March, so October would be six months for him."
The heavyweight division is drawing so much attention with Ngannou being on edge for his return. With Tai Tuivasa being an underdog heading into the UFC Main Event, would be aiming for an upset and climbing the ladder for the UFC gold. Let us know in the comment box what you are expecting in upcoming matchups in the heavyweight division.