LAS VEGAS — In mixed martial arts, there has been Jon Jones and then everyone else for more than a decade. After a move up in weight and three years away, absolutely nothing has changed.
Jones defeated Ciryl Gane with a guillotine choke at 2 minutes, 4 seconds of the first round 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 already was regarded as the greatest MMA fighter, and this victory left zero debate.
“I’ve been working for this for a long time,” Jones said in his postfight interview. “A lot of people thought I wasn’t coming back. I’ve been faithful to my goal. I’ve been faithful to the mission. There were days I didn’t want to train, and I was always there.”
Frankly, Jones made the whole thing look easy. He took Gane down, got him in a seated position against the cage and locked in the choke. It was unorthodox; Gane seemed safe. But Jones put on the squeeze, and Gane had to tap.
The submission was the third fastest in a UFC heavyweight title bout. Andrei Arlovski submitted Tim Sylvia in 47 seconds at UFC 51, and Frank Mir submitted Sylvia in 50 seconds at UFC 48.
“I’ve been wrestling since I was 12 years old,” Jones said. “I feel stronger and more comfortable on the ground than ever. … Once I got my hands on him, I knew that’s where I’m most comfortable and I can take control.”
Jones had not fought since February 2020. He relinquished the light heavyweight belt in August 2020, prepping for a move up to heavyweight. Jones wanted time to move up the right way — and he got it. He packed on more than 25 pounds of muscle, weighing in at 248 pounds Friday after being a 205-pound fighter his whole career.
UFC president Dana White said Jones went into the Octagon and treated Gane “like he was just a little kid.”
“I’m a big believer in ring rust,” White said. “We didn’t get to see any ring rust. Who knows if there was ring rust? He just went in there, and it was nothing, like the easiest thing in the world to do. He’s a freak of nature.”
Jones had talked about moving up to heavyweight going back to 2012. He has never truly lost in the cage, with his lone defeat coming in a controversial disqualification in a bout that he was dominating. Jones is now the third fighter to win UFC titles at heavyweight and light heavyweight, joining Randy Couture and Daniel Cormier, and the eighth fighter to win titles in two divisions.
The UFC heavyweight title was vacated by former champion Francis Ngannou, who left UFC as a free agent earlier this year.
Jones’ win sets up a bout with Stipe Miocic, the most successful heavyweight fighter in UFC history and a former two-time champion.
“Y’all want to see me beat up Stipe?” Jones said in his Octagon interview. “One thing I know about the UFC is we give the fans what they want to see. Stipe Miocic, I hope you’re training, my guy. You’re the greatest heavyweight of all time. That’s what I want. I want you real bad.”
Jones (27-1, 1 NC) owns UFC records for longest unbeaten streak (19), victories in title fights (15) and title defenses (11, tied with Demetrious Johnson). The New York native, who lives and trains in Albuquerque, New Mexico, recorded a win over Dominick Reyes in his last fight in defense of the 205-pound title.
Jones, 35, was also the youngest fighter to win a UFC title at 23 in 2011.
This was Jones’ first finish since 2018 and first submission victory since 2012.
“I’ve been familiar with high praises for a while now,” Jones said. “I’m very aware that pride comes before the fall. … I know that grounding myself is going to be more important than ever.”
Gane (11-2), 32, was coming off a third-round knockout of Tai Tuivasa 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.
The French fighter said he was “angry” with himself for this defeat.
“This one is so painful,” Gane said. “This one is a real loss. Now, it’s the past. I must go forward to see the future. And I’ll go straight back to the gym.”