How to watch Jon Jones at UFC 285

Mar 2, 2023, 8:30 AM | Updated: May 21, 2024, 10:37 pm

Light heavyweight champion Jon Jones waits in a timeout as he defends his title against Daniel Corm...

LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 03: Light heavyweight champion Jon Jones waits in a timeout as he defends his title against Daniel Cormier during the UFC 182 event at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on January 3, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Jones retained his title by unanimous decision. (Photo by Steve Marcus/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steve Marcus/Getty Images)

It’ll be 1,120 days since Jon Jones last fought in the UFC when he steps into the octagon Saturday night. And yet, the anticipation couldn’t be higher.

Jon Jones has been the sport’s most polarizing athlete since he stepped foot in the UFC back in 2008. Becoming the youngest champion in the history of the company at 23 years old. Jones is the GOAT amongst GOATs for most associated with MMA. He is the true upper echelon of the sport that no one has truly matched (Khabib Nurmagomedov included), only carrying one defeat in his career via disqualification.

Defeating the likes of Ryan Bader, Maurício “Shogun” Rua and Lyoto Machida to claim the light heavyweight title, Jones was a global superstar within a few years. He would go on to have eight title defenses by 2015, setting the record for the division. 

Then the darker side of fame & fortune caught up with him. 

Excessive partying, various arrests, drugs & alcohol: Those have been the vices of Jon “Bones” Jones over the years.

His first suspension came after a failed drug test for cocaine in 2014, and later a hit-and-run incident with a pregnant woman, fleeing the scene on foot in 2015. Jones was stripped of his title immediately and placed on a six-month suspension from the company before returning in April 2016. He defeated Ovince Saint Preux by unanimous decision after Daniel Cormier suffered a foot injury in camp.

And then the darkness returned.

The rematch between the two was scheduled to take place a few months later, then Jones was pulled from the card for a doping violation three days prior. The USADA suspended Jones for one year, retroactive to July 7, a few months later. Jones was immediately stripped of the belt again. A month later, the Nevada State Athletic Commission suspended Jones for a year. 

Back on the shelf he went.

Jones returned to the UFC on July 29, 2017, finally having his rematch with Daniel Cormier at UFC 214. This time the fight did happen, with Jones recapturing the light heavyweight title via first-round knockout. 

Bones was back on top of the 205-pound division.

But like clockwork, darkness crept from behind evermore.

On Aug. 22, 2017, Jones was flagged for a potential doping violation by USADA, stemming from his sample that was collected after weigh-ins on July 28. Testing positive for an anabolic steroid, the California State Athletic Commission officially overturned the result of the fight to a no contest. UFC President Dana White made the decision to strip Jones of the title for a third time.

USADA sentenced him to a 15-month suspension from MMA, he was back at square one again.

Back like a phoenix rising from the flames, Jones returned with the same fire as before. 

Making his return to the cage in 2018, he quickly disposed of Alexander Gustafsson to reclaim his belt. This time he stuck around for a while longer, defending his belt three times in two years. But this reign wasn’t as convincing as the last, winning all three with controversial decisions. Nevertheless, he was awarded the victories and that’s all that matters in the history books. 

Fearing a lack of competition in the light heavyweight division, Jones decided to relinquish his belt in August 2020. Wanting to fight at heavyweight, he had his sights set on knockout kingpin Francis Ngannou. But money disputes and “lack of fear”(as Jones calls it) persuaded him from getting a deal done with Ngannou and the UFC for years. 

Eventually, the UFC moved on with Ngannou, capturing the heavyweight belt in March of 2021 via a second-round KO of Stipe Miocic.

The Cameroonian’s reign was short-lived though, tearing ligaments in his knee three weeks before his first title defense with Ciryl Gane. Ngannou fought anyways, defeating Gane by a unanimous decision in January 2022. 

Recovering from a torn ACL, the heavyweight champ’s contract also expired after his last fight, causing a negotiating conundrum with the UFC.

After months of negotiations, the two sides could not reach a deal, and Ngannou was released from the company. On the flip side, Jon Jones has spent the last three years converting to heavyweight, waiting patiently for his return.

Stripping Ngannou of his title in January, the UFC booked Jones v. Gane for the vacant belt on March 4th simultaneously. Now in his mid-30s, Jones has a chance to solidify two things: His status as the greatest of all time, and the hierarchy of the most prestigious division in combat sports. 

And from the way he’s entered fight week, not much has changed in demeanor for Bones. Here are some quotes from this week:

“Losing is not an option. It’s not just a sporting event to me, this is my life, this is my legacy, this is me.”

“I’m not gonna lose all these years to a guy who is just here right now. That’s the way I view him. He’s just here right now. His words let him know that he doesn’t believe he’ll be here for a long time. I’m not losing to a guy like that.”

Overconfidence is an understatement for Jon Jones. And yet, he’s earned it. 

Fighting for GOAT status has that effect on people, especially the select few who truly can put themselves in those conversations. What makes Bones unique is his ability to conquer the war of the mind as well, using his calm demeanor to show humility, before attacking you like a hungry lion in the octagon.

After all that has happened, Jon Jones has a chance at UFC redemption once again. If he defeats former interim heavyweight champ Gane Saturday, Jones will be the undisputed GOAT of the UFC, saving the division in the process. 

The UFC benefits from having a heel as a world champion. Love him or hate him, people will pay to see Bones Jones fight every time.

He’ll restore a marquee division last controlled by Miocic in the late 2010s, completing the cycle in sports immortality. And after the ugly departure of Ngannou, the company can’t afford a stagnant division at the top of the food chain either.

That’s why Saturday means more to Jones than most of us can fathom, the octagon is his home. And mixed martial arts is the foundation he built it. 

His entire life, the kid from Rochester, New York has been three things: A warrior, a survivor, and a fighter. 

In Jon Jones’ purest form, he is the epitome of the ultimate fighter.

So I ask: We’ll you be a witness to UFC immortality Saturday?

How to watch Jon Jones at UFC 285

Jon Jones will face Ciryl Gane at UFC 285 in Las Vegas, Nevada on March 4th at T-Mobile Arena. The All-Star cast of Jon Anik, Joe Rogan and Daniel Cormier will be on the call Saturday. You can catch the prelims on ESPN starting at 5 p.m. PST before the main card takes over on ESPN+ PPV at 7 p.m. 

Who else is competing on the Main Card?

Women’s Flyweight (Co-main): (C) Valentina Shevchenko (23-3) vs. #6 Alexa Grasso (15-3)

Prediction: Shevchenko via unanimous decision 

Welterweight: #7 Geoff Neal (15-4) vs. #9 Shavkat Rakhmonov (16-0)

Prediction: Rakhmonov via TKO

Lightweight: #7 Mateusz Gamrot (21-2, 1 NC) vs. #10 Jalin Turner (13-5)

Prediction: Turner via TKO

Middleweight: (UFC debut) Bo Nickal (3-0) vs. Jamie Pickett (13-8)

Prediction: Bo Nickal via submission

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How to watch Jon Jones at UFC 285