Ariel Helwani on why now is the time for the UFC to book Jon Jones vs. Francis Ngannou

So, life seems a little more normal, right?

Three UFC events in eight days will certainly do that.


After two months of uncertainty, we went back to discussing late / early interruptions, title shots and all the crazy and fun things that make being an MMA fan a lot of fun.

It also means that I have many thoughts. So, without further ado …

1 I decided I'm all-in Jon Jones vs. Francis Ngannou. This required a lot of soul searching, but I am here to proclaim that I am sold. I want that to happen. This needs to happen.


I made that decision Monday night. For a week before that, I didn't like the idea. I didn’t like it because I thought Jones vs. Dominick Reyes 2 was the fight to do. I thought Jones had business to do with heavyweights, and it wouldn't be fair for Reyes or Jan Blachowicz, the other main contender at 205 pounds, for the champion to suddenly rise to heavyweight. A year ago, of course. But not now. Jones' two most recent appearances gave me serious doubts about whether he could go out with the elite in heavyweight.

Then I remembered that I was the first person in the media – or one of the first – to suggest that Jones go up to heavyweight to fight Ngannou. Let me clarify: the idea of ​​Jones changing his position has been discussed for years, but last year, after his victory over Thiago Santos, I said Jones should go up to fight Ngannou – not to fight for the belt, but to test the waters against one of the best in the division and see how it goes.

If you remember, Jones teased us last year, talking about a Stipe Miocic heavyweight fight, only to find out that he had already agreed to fight Santos. It was not cool. So, he's been doing this for a while, and there was a part of me that thought he was trolling us again. But it seems more real. (At least, I hope it is.) It looks like Jones is up for the challenge, and that seems like something to be explored. I am in everything.

2) Why? It's Jones vs. Ngannou. Arguably the best of all time, certainly the greatest light heavyweight champion of all time, against Ngannou, who is the hottest and hottest spot that has looked like Mike Tyson's second coming recently. What's not to love? This would be one of the easiest fights to sell to the UFC because of Ngannou's appearance and fight and the fact that Jones was never really defeated and never fought with heavyweights. The idea of ​​Jones finally going up is quite intriguing. If he was struggling with some heavy weight, people would be intrigued. But Ngannou? How can you not love this?


3) Look, Ngannou has nothing better going on. He's Miocic's strange man.Daniel Cormier saga. So, we know he's ready to go. Jones, for his part, has seemed a little bored at 205 lately, even though the competition has become tougher for him. A motivated Jones is a dangerous Jones, and that seems to have motivated him. And so, for all these reasons, I enter. I feel bad for Reyes, but we've been talking about Jones going up to heavyweight for so long – and I've been talking about this particular fight for so long – – that we need to attack now.

Now, if Jones is messing with us again, then help me God …

4) It is worth mentioning, I was told that the UFC did not engage in serious discussions about this fight with any of the parties. Amazing? Not really, and here's why.

(a) The promotion has just ended a busy two-week period. Nothing else mattered to the UFC folks but holding these three events in Jacksonville, Florida, in the safest, healthiest and most efficient way, because they knew there were a lot of eyes on them. The next struggles, especially those that would probably require a little – or a lot – of negotiations, were put on the back burner. I suspect that we will start seeing a lot more summer fights now.

(b) There is also a good old fashioned chicken game going on. You see, when Jones tweeted about his interest in this fight, he's not doing it to get the attention of fans or even Ngannou. He's doing this to get the UFC's attention. And his intentions seem very clear: he is willing to fight, but he wants to be paid. Just look at his tweets. He is not hiding from that fact. The UFC sees this, and matchmakers know that if they reach him first, he will feel that he has all the advantage. That's why they didn't say much about it, and that's why Dana White, when asked about the fight during Saturday's post-fight press conference, didn't seem to understand all of that. Obviously, the UFC would love to make this fight happen. Likes to make money. The fight would be huge. But the UFC doesn't want to seem, as the kids say, thirsty. And neither did Jones. If he takes the first step, he will look desperate, so he will continue with the tweets. It will be interesting to see who breaks first.

5) All I know is that Jones and Ngannou have gone very deep now. Nor is there a fight scheduled. Fans love everything about a confrontation between the two. If the UFC ends Jones against another nearby light heavyweight, it will be a huge disappointment. There is no turning back.

6 It is also worth noting that, if international travel restrictions persist, the closet is about to be really empty for the UFC. I mean, did you see the formation of UFC 250? A lethal fight like Jones-Ngannou would be a gift from the gods of MMA, considering how intriguing it is and the fact that the two men live in the United States.

7) What do you do with Reyes, you ask? Reserve it against Blachowicz in fight number 1. It sounds easy, doesn't it?

8) By the way, I wouldn't hate the idea of ​​the UFC instituting a new rule in which, if a champion rises or falls in weight – to fight another champion or anyone else – he or she will have to resign the title. I know that this would prevent the promotion of these sensual fights between champions and champions, but I think it is not fair when candidates need to sit and wait when they are so close to fulfilling their dreams of fighting for a belt. There is no perfect answer, but I feel sorry for whoever is left out.

9 Speaking of champions, a combat sports retirement was treated worse than Henry Cejudois? As far as we know, he may never fight again. I would like to believe that he was being sincere when he said it ended after his victory over Dominick Cruz two weekends ago. I also think that his reasons for retiring in the Octagon were valid enough. But then he started talking about money at the post-fight press conference and started a fight with boxer Ryan Garcia on social media. Now it looks like all of this was a ploy to get more money from the UFC.



Brett Okamoto and Ariel Helwani discuss Henry Cejudo's retirement announcement, with Helwani not believing that Cejudo is moving away.

10) I thought the three shows in Jacksonville were mostly fun. Here is the stock of those who went up in the last two shows:

(an) Alistair Overeem: Your decision to train with the Elevation Fight Team in Denver proved to be very wise. When he starts 40 with 92 professional MMA / kickboxing fights, I am surprised that his chin has held up so well and surprised by evolution of your game.

B) Walt Harris: I am impressed by the grace and class with which he handled everything that preceded and after the fight against Overeem.

ç) Glover Teixeira: It was a solid victory for the 40-year-old, the fourth in a row. If Reyes and Blachowicz are fighting for a place at No. 1, Teixeira needs to be right behind them. Also, how can you not love a guy who apologizes to his opponent in the middle of fighting to beat him up?

d) Drew Dober: I believe in Dober a lot. He is a completely different fighter than the one who entered the UFC seven years ago. By the way …

(e) Elevation Fight Team: We need to talk more about what's going on in Denver. This squad is home to Overeem, Dober, Justin Gaethje, Curtis Blaydes, Cory Sandhagen and Neil Magny, among others. The elevation is on some type of roller.

f) Brian Kelleher: Long Island's product entered UFC 246 in January in the final fight of his contract and in a series of defeats in two fights that saw him standing still in both fights. He beat Ode Osbourne in the McGregor v. Cerrone, got a new contract and knocked out Hunter Azure on Wednesday. What a difference some fights make.

g) Others: Cortney Casey, who looked very good at 125, Kevin Holland, which just scratched the surface and Chase Sherman, who unexpectedly got a second chance in the UFC and made the most of it.

11) Do you know whose shares didn't go up last week? MMA employees. This includes referees and judges – but mostly judges. I thought the scorecards missed the first four fights on Saturday's main card, and it wasn't just those four fights. There were a lot of crazy cards all over the place. I wonder if the judges could hear the commentators and the chants so clearly affected their decision making. That's the only thing I can think of. In that case, I wonder if anything will be done to change that, because although the MMA judgment is often irregular, these recent decisions have been a little unpredictable for my taste.

12) A week later, I feel the same way about the Anthony Smith vs. Glover Teixeira fights. In short, it lasted a long time. Arguably eight to 10 more minutes. I respect the fact that Smith doesn't think he should have been interrupted. I respect the fact that, as he told me on Tuesday, he told the singers that he would fire them if they stopped fighting. But that doesn’t mean you can’t say it was reckless and / or blatant to leave Smith suffer so much damage when he was clearly injured. The referee, Jason Herzog, came out of the situation looking elegant after making a statement, taking all the blame. Herzog is one of the best referees in the game. It was nice of him to do that. But I hope he did it because he meant it – not because he was getting hot online.



Anthony Smith tells Ariel Helwani that he is happy that his singing did not cancel his fight against Glover Teixeira because he doesn't want that kind of responsibility in someone else's hands.

13) Can I start a move to combine the May 30 card with the UFC 250 card on June 6? I know the UFC wants to make up for lost time, but I think pay-per-view needs a little bit of strength. Tyron Woodley vs. Gilbert Burns, which is scheduled to be the May 30 main event, would be a welcome addition to the next week’s pay-per-view schedule.

14) I suspect we are going to find out this week if the UFC can resume hosting events in Nevada. I mean, we have to find out this week, right? Next week would be the week of the fight with Woodley-Burns. I know it's hard to keep up with the weather today, but it's a little strange that the card is 10 days away, and yet I don't know where it will happen. Obviously, the easiest solution would be to do it at the Apex in Las Vegas.

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