The UFC fires its reigning heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou – freeing him up for a potential boxing match with Tyson Fury. In return, the MMA league brings scandal star Jon Jones back on board.

The combat sports empire UFC is carrying out a personnel quake – which also has implications for boxing champion Tyson Fury.

The MMA league is sacking its reigning heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou, who has flirted several times in recent years with a move to boxing and a world championship duel with Fury.

Fury is thus richer by a potentially very lucrative fight option especially for the US market, while UFC boss Dana White is reshuffling his heavyweight scene.

Former interim champion Cyril Gane and Scandal star Jon Jones, who is returning to the Octagon after three years, will fight for the vacant title at UFC 285 in Las Vegas on 4 March.

UFC boss Dana White releases Francis Ngannou from contract

Ngannou and the UFC have been in an ongoing conflict over pay and esteem for years, and White has now drawn a line under it: He releases Ngannou from his expiring contract and also waives the option of beating out other offers for him with an offer of equal value. White blames the Cameroonian, who lives in France, for the break.

“We offered Francis a deal that would have made him the highest-paid heavyweight in league history,” White said in a press conference after a night of fighting in Vegas: “He deserved more than Brock Lesnar, more than anybody.”

At first glance, it seems absurd that Ngannou would turn down such an offer and instead possibly embark on a boxing adventure with uncertain sporting prospects. However, it should be borne in mind that even if the UFC has outstripped boxing in the US core market: The majority of the money is made by the UFC – there is more money for fighters in boxing because the power relations there are more tailored to the stars and their market value.

Tyson Fury showed interest in “Dream Match”

With this hint, Ngannou has repeatedly put White under pressure and also concretely brought up a “Dream Match” with Fury several times. The Brit – most recently victorious against Dereck Chisora – expressed interest.

“Whether it’s boxing gloves or UFC gloves, whether it’s in the ring or cage, we can make it happen. He’s been on my wish list for a while. He’s a giant, I’m a giant,” Fury told ESPN in April – in a public meeting with Ngannou immediately after his win over Dillian Whyte at London’s Wembley Stadium.

Scandal star Jon Jones makes a spicy return

Meanwhile, the UFC has settled its also long-running money dispute with returnee Jones: the brother of NFL linebacker Chandler Jones has signed an eight-fight deal, according to White.

Jones, a longtime light heavyweight champion, is moving up to heavyweight. He’s had the idea for a long time but hasn’t even fought since February 2020 because he and White didn’t agree on terms for a long time.

Exceptional athlete Jones was once considered the UFC’s best fighter across weight classes and its second biggest star behind Conor McGregor. However, his career has been overshadowed by various doping and violence scandals: Most recently, an arrest in September 2021 on suspicion of drunkenly beating his fiancée – with whom he is now no longer together – after a night of partying following the Hall of Fame ceremony in Las Vegas shocked the public.

Against this backdrop, the recall action comes at a piquant time – shortly after UFC boss White himself was in the headlines for a fistfight with his wife.