Francis Ngannou (Rob Tatum/Combat Press)

The Narrow Path to Jon Jones vs. Francis Ngannou in 2024

It may seem like an impossibility, but there may be an opening to see Jon Jones vs. Francis Ngannou sometime in late 2024. Recently, UFC President Dana White changed his tone when asked about the potential fight and prospect of co-promotion. However, this involves a few moving parts that must align – the UFC, the PFL, and Saudi Arabia. If all goes according to plan, we could have the MMA dream fight booked this year. I am ever an optimist.

Jon Jones vs. Francis Ngannou

Francis Ngannou was crowned UFC heavyweight champion in 2021 with a second-round knockout of Stipe Miocic. The Cameroonian-born striker has had an incredible life story; from travelling across Africa, to homeless in Paris, and eventually to UFC gold. This story paired with his viral knockouts made him a natural star with his crossover appeal.

After defending his crown, like so many heavyweight champions before him, he vacated the UFC title and bet on himself. It’s nearly a tradition at this point for heavyweight champions to lose the title outside of the octagon. This time, the heavyweight king left his title behind in the boardroom. Ngannou walked away from the UFC but took the lineal title with him. Notably, the UFC heavyweight throne has multiple lineal tied to it such as UFC 1, Strikeforce, DREAM, and PRIDE FC titles, all of which now belong to Ngannou.


In 2023, the all-time MMA great Jon Jones snatched the vacant UFC heavyweight title with an impressive first-round submission win. This was after a lengthy run holding the light heavyweight crown. At light heavyweight, “Bones” has defended his crown in a whopping eleven bouts and has vanquished multiple former champions along the way.

The light heavyweight title reign of “Bones” bisected the time of Ngannou’s heavyweight title. But for whatever reason Jones refused to move up to heavyweight during that same time. Once the Cameroonian left the organization, Jones found the resolve to move up. Ngannou told Jones, “You sat back for three years.”

The UFC heavyweight division currently has some exciting competition for Jones. This includes the interim champ, Tom Aspinall. Even the light heavyweight titleholder Alex Pereira has also been discussed as a potential opponent. But, the US-born Jones is instead focused on facing the former champion Stipe Micioc. It’s worth noting the last victory from Miocic was back in 2020. Fans, though, have pitched a dream match between Jon Jones and Francis Ngannou; the current UFC champion facing the lineal UFC champion.

Riyadh Season

Francis Ngannou had two high-profile blockbuster boxing matches in which he suffered losses to champions Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury. These fights were made possible by Saudi Arabia, specifically through the organization Riyadh Season. Turki Al-Sheikh and Riyadh Season have broken the gridlock in boxing as they have been able to organize top champions against other champions regardless of the red tape which typically blocks dream fights. This includes the heavyweight title showdown Tyson Fury vs. Oleksandr Usyk which required multiple organizations to be on board.

In an interview, Ngannou explained to me:

“It feels great. [Riyadh Season] came at the right moment. I just decided to take a new step and was just figuring it out and then this came to be a perfect fit, perfect institution. And my spot was just open. So I just got in.”

The Professional Fighters League signed a contract with heavyweight king Ngannou hoping to pair him up against their champion, the towering, Renan Ferreira, of Brazil. “Problema” Ferreira knocked out Ryan Bader in just twenty-one seconds to earn the PFL vs. Bellator Super Belt Championship. This fight was hosted live in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The PFL and Saudi Arabia have become key partners of one another. Recently, Riyadh Season and UFC have begun to work with each other as well.

PFL Chairman Donn Davis told me in an interview:

“Unlike the UFC, we would say yes to a fight, yes to an event, yes to [a] collaboration. Anything that is compelling. We’re not dogmatic about working with anybody on anything. But it’s gotta be a big idea. And then we’d say yes.”


It seems like a no-brainer at this point. The PFL is open and willing to co-promote. Riyadh Season is in partnership with all parties involved. However, there is a key aspect that has been a sticking point for the past 30 years of MMA; the UFC’s golden rule is that they never co-promote.

M-1 were gunning to co-promote with the UFC on the back of all-time heavyweight great Fedor Emelianenko, long-time PRIDE FC champion. All parties were willing and happy with the amount of money, the UFC was even allowing the Russian-born fighter to wear M-1 gloves and clothing; a rare exception. But, it did not come to pass. The sticking point was that M-1 demanded co-promotion, something the UFC has refused for its entire history.

Dana White, UFC president, recently had a change of tune though. Which, given the history, was a shock. When asked if there is a way to have a cross-promotion fight involving Francis Ngannou and Saudi Arabia, Dana White answered:

“We have actually formed a relationship over the last couple of months. I respect what [Turki Al-Sheikh] has done with boxing. This is the only guy that could pull this off and make these big fights. And the fights are good, you don’t have guys coming in and avoiding fights so they can get to the next payday. What this guy has done in a short amount of time is pretty incredible, so we’re obviously talking about lots of different options with this guy. I respect him. I like him, so we will see what the future holds.”

Jon Jones is interested in the fight, he said:

“Francis and I would be massive. And Stipe, to the hardcore fans, it’s still a respectable opponent My prediction is I will beat Stipe, Tom Aspinall and Francis Ngannou.”

PFL boss Donn Davis is willing, he explained:

“The fight that I believe could happen is Jon Jones and Francis Ngannou. And I think that fight can happen in Saudi Arabia.”

Ngannou, on a Jones fight, added in an interview:

“I think the UFC have to figure it out and get to a point to figure out that some stuff can be done, maybe cross-promotion in order to give the fans what they want. To make this fight happen. As soon as they get that, as soon as they decide to give that to the fans, everything will be okay. All the parties are down for the fight except one.”

Several moving parts will need to align, but this may be a changing moment in history if the UFC opens its doors for co-promotion. The UFC champion vs. Lineal MMA champion, Jon Jones vs. Francis Ngannou, with the help of Saudi Arabia, may be a good time to be hopeful of this dream clash. It is a narrow avenue however there appears to be an opening.