‘Lion’ Jon Jones out to unleash ‘vicious warrior’ on Ciryl Gane upon return at UFC 285

‘Lion’ Jon Jones out to unleash ‘vicious warrior’ on Ciryl Gane upon return at UFC 285

Jon Jones has warned Ciryl Gane that he is ready to unleash “a vicious warrior inside of me” to claim the vacant heavyweight title in his much-anticipated return at UFC 285 this weekend.

The former long-time light heavyweight champion, considered by many the greatest mixed martial artist of all-time, makes his competitive comeback after more than three years away in the headline bout on Sunday morning at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.


Jones, 26-1 in professional MMA, steps up to heavyweight for the first time in his career, where he faces former interim champion Gane for the belt vacated last month by Francis Ngannou.

Now 35, Jones’ return is the subject of much conjecture given his lengthy lay-off and his change of weight class. However, the American sounded extremely confident when he faced the media late on Wednesday.

“I believe I know the answers to these questions,” a relaxed Jones said. “I feel awesome. I feel like I move really well. I have great pride in my endurance.

“I feel like a stronger version of myself. I’m not super lean, I don’t have a mean six-pack like I used to. That took me a while to get used to back in the day. I would judge my fitness level by how I look in the mirror.

“I’m a heavyweight now. It’s not about what you look like. It’s about how you perform.”

Jones has not fought since his controversial decision victory against Dominick Reyes at UFC 247 in February 2020, but is seeking this weekend to add to his already-formidable legacy.

Still holding the record as youngest champion in UFC history, he will attempt to become only the eighth athlete in the promotion to capture belts in two different divisions. Jones relinquished his light heavyweight crown shortly after his clash with Reyes.

Gane, though, represents a dangerous opponent. The Frenchman, 11-1, rebounded from his defeat to then-champion Ngannou at the beginning of last year with a gutsy victory in his homeland in September, when he survived a serious scare against Tai Tuivasa to triumph via third-round knockout.

And while Gane goes into UFC 285 as the division’s No 1-ranked contender, Jones questioned his rival’s all-round game.

“I feel like Ciryl is the most incomplete fighter in the top five right now,” Jones said. “He has really good striking and he has really good footwork, but I’ve watched his fights. He got tired in his last fight against Francis Ngannou.

“All that fancy footwork, him supposedly being the fastest heavyweight we’ve ever seen. All that went away. One or two takedowns. Making him earn getting back to his feet, that tired him out big time.

“I’m a wrestler and I wrestle people a lot and it’s a different type of endurance. A lot of people don’t like having someone on top of them and having to earn their way back up to the feet. Francis outworked Ciryl Gane. Ciryl Gane’s coach said it best: Ciryl is talented, Francis is a hard worker.”

Jones denied suggestions Gane does not take the challenge serious enough, saying: “If I go out there and stand in front of him and let him get into his rhythm then I’m sure he would have bad intentions. I won’t be lulled to sleep by him and be like, ‘Oh, I’m just happy to be here. It’s just a sport. Life goes on if I win or lose.’

“I fight for something a little bit different. There’s a dog inside of me. During the ‘Countdown’ his coach was like, ‘For the Tai Tuivasa fight we focused on bringing out Ciryl’s dog.’ I don’t feel like that’s something your coach should have to teach you about being a dog.

“I know that at the end of the day, I have a dog in me. I have a lion in me. I have a vicious warrior inside of me. It’s who I am. Losing’s not an option because it’s not just a sporting event to me. This is my life. This is my image. This is my legacy. This is me.

“My reasons why are really big. I don’t know if his energy matches mine when it comes to the seriousness of how I take this fight and game.”

Ciryl Gane prepares to compete against Tai Tuivasa in their heavyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night 209 event at the Accor Arena in Paris, on September 3, 2022. AFP

Meanwhile, Jones said he feels “set free” following rules changes implemented by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (Usada) that would have never seen him charged with failing drugs tests in the past.

Jones returned positive samples prior to the 2019 revision to the threshold, with the knockout victory in his 2017 rematch with Daniel Cormier deemed a no contest.

“Usada has changed some of the rules regarding picograms and what’s allowed,” Jones said. “And I’ve come to find out that all my findings are all under the new legal limit, meaning that I would’ve been cleared from every test I’ve ever taken, and that means a lot to me.

“If that same rule would’ve applied back then, it would’ve never made the media. It would’ve never been a big deal at all. My win over Daniel Cormier wouldn’t be a no contest. It would be a knockout, a KO victory.

“So, I’m hoping that with these rule changes, we could go back and make that no contest a win. That would mean a lot to me. I don’t have any ill will towards USADA. It’s just something we needed to go through.

“I was the first one, and one of the biggest names to go through it, and I’m glad I did because some of these younger fighters wouldn’t have been able to survive something like that.

“It was hell being considered a steroid cheat. I’m glad people get to see clearly that I never was. I feel set free.”

Updated: March 02, 2023, 9: 22 AM

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