Jon Jones returns to win UFC heavyweight title in 1st round

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Jon Jones ended a three-year sabbatical from the UFC, moved up to his highest weight class, then left no doubt Saturday night about his place in history Sport.

Already widely regarded as the greatest fighter in the UFC, Jones, 35, took Ciryl Gane to the mat just over a minute into the first round and won with a guillotine choke at 2:04. in UFC 285.

“I’m so excited,” Jones said. “I’ve been working for this for a long time. A people thought that I would not return. I have been true to my purpose, true to my mission.

Short as the fight was, Jones made sure to take his time getting into the octagon, playing in front of the sold-out crowd of 19,471. UFC President Dana White said the gate was $12.5 million, the highest for a heavyweight match and the fourth highest on record.

It was Jones’ first fight in three years and his first in the heavyweight division. The former light heavyweight champion said it was important to make sure he deserved the honor of being the greatest of all time.

With fellow GOAT Tom Brady sitting nearby, Jones did just that. Brady flew the day of the fight from Florida and spent time with Jones’ brother, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Chandler Jones.

“(Jones is) a total freak of nature,” White said, “and he’s the best ever.”

It was questioned whether so much free time would affect Jones’ efficiency, and he spent time at his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico, preparing for that night. His last fight was on February 8, 2020, a unanimous decision over Dominick Reyes.

Jones didn’t look the same as he did before taking time off, and he admitted that the extra weight he had put on had taken away his muscle tone. Throughout, however, Jones insisted that appearances were deceiving.

He backed up his words.

“Ciryl Gane is a freak,” White said. “Jon Jones showed up and treated him like a kid.”

Jones thought the time spent preparing for that night would show that the weight increase was worth it. He hired a team in Albuquerque to get him into peak shape.

“I had to show up and take (Gane) down,” Jones said. “I’ve been wrestling since I was 12. I feel stronger than ever. Once I got it in my hands, I know I could take control.

The win extended Jones’ record unbeaten streak to 19 in a row, and he improved to 27-1 with a draw. He won a record 14 title fights at light heavyweight.

Jones said he wanted Stipe Miocic next, who is the second contender and whom Jones called the greatest heavyweight of all time. White said the fight will happen, but didn’t know when it would happen.

Frenchman Gane, 32, was the top-ranked heavyweight contender. It fell to 11-2.

“This one is so painful,” Gane said. “This one is a lost victory. So now it’s in the past, and especially because what I see is in the future. I’m going straight back to the gym.

In the co-main event of a women’s bout, sixth-seeded Mexican Alexa Grasso (16-3) submitted champion Valentina Shevchenko (23-4) of Kyrgyzstan at 4:34 of the fourth round to grab the the belt. Grasso became the third Mexican champion.

“I feel like it’s a dream,” Grasso said. “I dreamed of this moment.”

Shevchenko, 34, had won his last eight title matches and controlled the title in three rounds by dictating the action and repeatedly taking Grasso to the ground.

Grasso, however, brought Shevchenko to the mat late in the fourth when the now former champion attempted a back kick. Then Grasso, 29, put Shevchenko in a position where she was forced to tap.

Shevchenko said she wanted a rematch, but White wasn’t sure that would happen.

Middleweight Bo Nickal, 27, won his UFC debut, submitting Jamie Pickett, 34, by arm triangle at 2:54 of the first round. Nickal won three NCAA wrestling championships at Penn State. It went 4-0 on aggregate; Pickett is 13-9.

Scenes from the 1989 “Road House” movie remake were shot between action in the octagon with actor Jake Gyllenhaal portraying an MMA fighter.


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