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'I feel like a stronger version of myself:' Jon Jones set for UFC return ...

Considered by many as the greatest MMA fighter in history, Jon Jones will return to the Octagon on Saturday for the first time in three years; albeit with a different look.
CNN  — 

Considered by many as the greatest MMA fighter in history, Jon Jones will return to the Octagon on Saturday for the first time in three years; albeit with a different look.

The 35-year-old, who has 26 UFC wins to his name, has stepped up a weight division for his highly-anticipated return, where he will face Ciryl Gane for the heavyweight title.

The two men came face to face ahead of the fight on Thursday with fans getting a glimpse of Jones’ new physique.

“I developed a whole lot of belly and a whole lot of a**,” Jones told BT Sport, adding that he’s enjoyed being able to eat more in the buildup to the fight.

“It feels amazing. It just allows me to have as much fun as I can with the media and with the fans.”

Opponents Jon Jones and Ciryl Gane face off during the UFC 285 weigh-in.

Photos and videos of Jones in training have tracked his transformation from a lean, slender fighter to a much heavier man.

Since walking away from the sport in 2020, Jones has worked with the likes of American bodybuilder Stan Efferding to make the jump in weight class.

Jones says that Efferding lived with him for nine months to help with his training, teaching him about the importance of sleep and diet.

It’s quite the change from his days as a light-heavyweight fighter and there are questions about his body’s ability to deal with the extra strain – Jones weighed in at 248lbs for Saturday’s main event, compared to the 204lbs he weighed for his last fight in 2020.

Jones, however, is confident and is looking forward to challenging himself against a new division of fighters.

“I feel awesome,” he told reporters on Thursday, saying he hoped to make the fight look easy. “I feel like I move really well. I have great pride in my endurance.

“I feel great. Honestly, I feel like a stronger version of myself. I’m not super lean, I don’t have a mean six-pack like I used to.

“That took me a while to get used to. Back in the day, I would judge my fitness level by the way I looked in the mirror but I’m a heavyweight now.

“It’s not about what you look like, it’s about how you perform.”

Jon Jones fighting Thiago Santos in 2019.
Stepping up

The pair will battle it out for the heavyweight title belt that was vacated by Francis Ngannou after he left the UFC in January.

Jones’ French opponent has won 11 fights in the UFC and has lost just once, against former champion Ngannou.

Speaking to reporters ahead of the fight, Gane says his previous experience in the heavyweight division could give him the edge over Jones, who has teased a move up in weight throughout his career.

“I have more experience in this division. Trust me, a lot of people underestimate me and my wrestling game so we will see this Saturday,” Gane said Thursday.

“It’s a big test for me. Maybe, truly, the biggest test of my life so I’m really happy about that.”

The pair will meet at UFC 285 inside the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday.

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