UFC president Dana White has said Francis Ngannou is next for a heavyweight title shot -- and former longtime light heavyweight champion Jon Jones will not hop over him for an opportunity in a new division.
For the most part, UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic agrees with that assessment.
Miocic defeated Ngannou by unanimous decision at UFC 220 in January 2018. But Miocic said Ngannou has "definitely worked his way back up" over the past two-plus years.
"I think so," Miocic told ESPN when asked if he agreed with White's statement. "Ngannou has definitely shown a lot better stuff since the first fight. He's knocking everyone out in the first round. He's just on a tear."
Indeed, Ngannou has won four straight , all by first-round KO/TKO. Miocic is coming off a successful title defense over Daniel Cormier at UFC 252 on Aug. 15. The victory completed the trilogy, 2-1, in favor of Miocic and broke Miocic's own record for most UFC heavyweight title defenses (4).
Few would debate at this point that Miocic is the best UFC heavyweight champion of all time and some -- like White -- believe he's the best heavyweight in MMA history. Then, there's Jones, who is the greatest light heavyweight in MMA history -- and perhaps the greatest mixed martial arts fighter ever.
Jones has just one career loss and it came by disqualification in 2009. Jones has the longest unbeaten streak in UFC history (18) and is tied for the most total UFC title defenses with Demetrious Johnson (11). Last week, Jones relinquished the light heavyweight belt and announced he'd be moving to heavyweight.
Does the idea of the best heavyweight versus the best light heavyweight intrigue Miocic? Not necessarily more than any other fight, he said.
"I'll fight anyone," Miocic said. "I don't really call people out. Whoever they put me in front of, I'm gonna fight. That's what I do. That's what I signed up for. If it's him or it's Ngannou or whoever, I'm ready to go."
Ngannou told ESPN's Ariel Helwani that he believes Jones might have an easier time at heavyweight since he's in his 30s now and growing out of the light heavyweight division. Miocic weighed in at 233 pounds against Cormier earlier this month and Jones probably doesn't walk around much lighter than that. But the champ said he's unsure if heavyweight will be easier for Jones.
"Listen, it's big boys and they've got small gloves on," Miocic said. "It just takes one. I don't care if you hit hard or not, you can still get caught. I don't care who you are."
With that said, Miocic believes Jones would do well in any weight class.
"He's got great technique," Miocic said. "That's definitely gonna help him. He's very fluid in what he does. He's got a great, strategic plan to how he fights. Half the game is having a good plan every time you go in and fight."
Miocic would not object at all if Jones is next, although he'd feel for others who have been toiling in the division working toward a title shot.
"I don't know," Miocic sid. "[Jones has] got a great résumé. But other guys have worked hard to get where they need to get. I'm not the matchmaker, so I can't really say anything. I fight. If I was a matchmaker, I wouldn't be fighting. I'll do what the UFC decides."
And that seems to be Ngannou at the moment. Miocic is not sure when he'll be back. He's still healing from the Cormier fight and said "pump the brakes" when asked about a potential time frame for a return. If and when that happens, the Ohio native said he sees a repeat of UFC 220 -- even with Ngannou's improvements.
"It doesn't matter," Miocic said. "The same thing is gonna happen. Same result. There's no difference that's gonna happen. I'm gonna win and dominate."