Jon Jones is back in the Octagon after a three-year hiatus, and former heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou is now a free agent, UFC President Dana White announced.
Jones is set to fight Cyril Gaine for the heavyweight title at UFC 285 on March 5 (AEDT), but White announced that the UFC was unable to sign Ngannou to a new contract.
White said the deal offered to Ngannou would make the 36-year-old “the highest-paid heavyweight in the company’s history.”
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“I’ve said it before,” White said on Sunday. “If you don’t want to be here, you don’t have to be there.
“I think Francis is in a place where he doesn’t want to take too many risks right now.
“We’re going to let him do it, release him from his contract and give up our right to play.”
According to White, Jones signed an eight-fight deal with the UFC.
The 35-year-old has been absent since defending the Light Heavyweight Championship with a win over Dominic Reyes at UFC 247 in February 2020.
Jones, one of the greatest fighters in the history of the sport, was arrested in September 2021 and charged with misdemeanor domestic violence, which was eventually dropped.
He holds a record of 20 wins and 1 loss in the UFC, his only loss being via disqualification.
Gane’s last fight saw him knock out Tai Tuivasa at UFC Fight Night 209 in September.
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