It’s been nearly three years since Jon Jones defeated Dominick Reyes via unanimous decision at UFC 247 in February 2020. On Saturday, UFC President Dana White announced his return.

Jones will fight Ciryl Gane at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on March 4 for the heavyweight title. The fight will headline UFC 285. Against Reyes, he defended his light heavyweight championship and has been going strong ever since to take on the heavyweight division in the mixed martial arts promotion.

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Jon Jones smiles after Jan Blachowicz defeated Corey Anderson by KO during the UFC Fight Night event at the Santa Ana Star Center on February 15, 2020 in Rio Rancho, New Mexico.
(Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

The announcement came after the company was unable to reach a new deal with reigning champion Francis Ngannou. White said he offered Ngannou the richest heavyweight deal in UFC history to fight Jones, but he turned it down. So White turned to Gane.

«I told you this before, if you don’t want to be here, you don’t have to be here,» White said, via ESPN. «I think Francis is in a place right now where he doesn’t want to take too many risks. He feels like he’s in a good position where he could fight lesser opponents and make more money. We’re going to let him do that, release him from his contract and step down. to our right to match».

White had high praise for Jones.

Ciryl Gane celebrates after defeating Tai Tuivasa during the Ultimate Fighting Championship event at the Accor Arena in Paris on September 3, 2022.

Ciryl Gane celebrates after defeating Tai Tuivasa during the Ultimate Fighting Championship event at the Accor Arena in Paris on September 3, 2022.
(Julien de Rosa/AFP via Getty Images)

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«Many believe, including myself, that he is the greatest of all time,» White said. «Jon Jones has been ready, willing and able to fight anyone. He didn’t care who it was.»

Jones is 26-1 all time and Gane is 11-1.

«When I started looking at this, Jon Jones was one of my favorite fighters,» Gane told reporters at the UFC Vegas 67 post-event press conference, via MMA Fighting. «More when I started in MMA, because I’m a fan of all sports in MMA, and when you look at a guy like Jon Jones, who is as complete as this, you really appreciate him. He is the GOAT. Look at his career..

«Today, I’m a young fighter, and I think it’s every young fighter’s dream to fight a GOAT. This is really crazy to me.»

Jon Jones stands in his corner before their light heavyweight championship fight at the Toyota Center on February 8, 2020 in Houston, Texas.

Jon Jones stands in his corner before their light heavyweight championship fight at the Toyota Center on February 8, 2020 in Houston, Texas.
(Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images))

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The Jones and Gane fight is the first official fight on the UFC 285 card.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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