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If former Ultimate Fighting Championship champ Jon Jones has his choice, he will never go back down to 205 pounds.
Jones spoke with Bleacher Report on Thursday, discussing his future in the sport including his change in weight classes. He told the outlet that he was ready for a new challenge, since he believed he had achieved everything he could at light heavyweight.
“I was just ready to challenge myself,” Jones said. “I was ready to enter a new chapter in my career. At this point, I’m in this sport for legacy and for the biggest-paying fights, and I just don’t think that continuing on at light heavyweight was going to do much for my legacy.”
Jones voluntarily surrendered his throne after a trio of title defenses in 2019 and 2020. Jones dominated Anthony Smith at UFC 235, but subsequent close fights with Thiago Santos at UFC 239 and Dominick Reyes at UFC 247 left questions about Jones’ ability to hoist the division’s banner in the future. Instead of facing potential rematches in foes like Glover Teixeira, or rising talent like Jiri Prochazka, the ex-champ decided to turn his sights to the heavyweight division.
“The reason why I decided to vacate the light heavyweight belt and not hang on to it that I knew my move to heavyweight was going to take a really long time,” Jones explained. “I didn’t want to be one of those athletes to slow down the division. I feel like I’ve held on to the light heavyweight championship for so long – I’ve ruined so many people’s dreams of being the light heavyweight champion, and now it’s time for someone else to have it.”
Jones continued, “I thought it was the right thing to do for everyone else. I could have done the selfish thing and held on to it, and come up with a bunch of excuses and lied to the fans, and said I was going to come back down to light heavyweight and [make] all these guys wait. I didn’t want to do that. I have no intentions of ever going back to light heavyweight.”
His division has transformed significantly in his absence, with Jan Blachowicz emerging as the new champ by toppling Dominick Reyes in September. Rather than face the top contender – Teixeira, who is on a spectacular five-fight win streak – he will be meeting middleweight kingpin Israel Adesanya at UFC 259 in May. Although there were many who believed Adesanya’s move to 205 pounds would lure Jones back down, Jones is excited at the prospect of the new category.
“I’ve been feeling so alive lately in my training,” Jones gushed. “I’ve been feeling so motivated, so inspired. It’s just a great feeling. I know this motivation and this liveliness I’ve been feeling is going to translate into dominating victories.”
With a move to heavyweight comes a new slate of opponents, many of them significantly larger and potentially more threatening than any he faced previously at 205 pounds. Knockout machine Francis Ngannou, as well as champion Stipe Miocic, await Jones, and Jones is interested in fighting one or both.
“I’ll be ready for either of them,” Jones stated. “Both fights are extremely challenging. Stipe, he’s the greatest heavyweight of all time. He has all the stats and records to prove that. And then Francis is just a freak when it comes to knockout power, and he’s improving constantly. Both fights are gigantic challenges, but that’s what I’m here for in this stage of my career – to go big and see what I’ve got.”