Jon Jones (right) vs Francis Ngannou (left) is the top UFC fight that never happened

Jones-Ngannou Tops List Of Fights That Never Happened

The UFC has been in shambles lately. On top of lackluster main events at UFC 282 and UFC Vegas 66, UFC president Dana White was caught on camera slapping his wife in public during a New Year’s Eve party. Let’s also not forget the James Krause betting scandal dating back to November. 

The bad luck continued into 2023 when Kelvin Gastelum pulled out of the main event vs Nassourdine Imavov at UFC Vegas 67 and was replaced by Sean Strickland. What a bloody mess. 

Yet, for UFC fans, there was always a light at the end of the tunnel: a Jon Jones super-fight was on the horizon. His potential opponent? Heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou, a power-punching monster and one of the most popular and exciting mixed martial artists in the world.

For months (years, even), the idea of Jones-Ngannou was teased and the hype built. The prospect of Jones, the MMA G.O.A.T., making his heavyweight debut vs Ngannou, the scariest fighter in MMA history, brings enough star power to make your head burst. 

On Saturday, everyone’s dreams were crushed. White announced the UFC couldn’t agree on a contract with Ngannou, now a free agent, and will strip the 36-year-old of his belt. The promotion has now booked Jones vs top contender Ciryl Gane for the vacant championship at UFC 285 in March.

What a dreadful letdown this whole situation has been. But is it the greatest UFC fight to fall through? Let’s unravel this compendium of sadness and take a look at the greatest UFC fights that never happened.

Top UFC Fights That Never Happened

Let’s go through some dream fights that were booked, rumored or targeted that fell apart before coming to fruition. 

Tony Ferguson vs Khabib Nurmagomedov

This one boggles my mind. The Ferguson-Khabib pairing fell through five (FIVE!) times, which can only be considered an act of God.

Khabib and Tony were supposed to square off on the Ultimate Fighter Season 22 finale, but Khabib pulled out with a rib injury. Then Ferguson pulled out of a bout at UFC on Fox 19. After that, Nurmagomedov had weight cut issues ahead of UFC 209 and that fight was canceled. The next cancellation, a real cherry on top, occurred when Ferguson tripped during media day ahead of UFC 223 and tore a ligament in his knee. The COVID-19 pandemic (act of God!) canceled their fifth proposed matchup at UFC 249.

Stylistically, this would have been a fantastic fight. Ferguson’s wild athleticism vs Khabib’s savage wrestling would’ve had fight fans salivating. Instead, we were served a big bowl of nothing five times in a row. 

Fedor Emelianenko vs Brock Lesnar

Despite plenty of negotiations, Fedor, a heavyweight MMA legend, never crossed into the UFC. At one point around 2008, the UFC wanted to matchmake its heavyweight champ, Lesnar, with Emelianenko. 

That bout would’ve been electric. Lesnar, a pay-per-view superstar, was a ferocious wrestler in his heyday and Fedor was one of the most well-rounded martial artists on the planet. The money wasn’t right, though, and this bout never happened. 

As far as heavyweight fights we lost, this is easily No. 2 behind Jones-Ngannou. 

Georges St-Pierre vs Anderson Silva

This one would’ve been massive. GSP and Silva were both UFC champions in the late 2000s-early 2010s but could never agree on a weight class to cross over and throw hands. 

Unlike Khabib vs Tony, this bout never got off the ground. St-Pierre didn’t want to do a middleweight or catchweight fight, citing adequate competition in his natural welterweight division. GSP also reportedly had issues with the promotion’s drug testing policies. From there, some tension brewed between St-Pierre and White, killing this potential super-fight. 

Why Jones-Ngannou Is UFC’s Biggest Missed Fight

The three aforementioned fights are all painful missed opportunities for the UFC, but the Jones-Ngannou fiasco outdoes them all.

Firstly, Jones’ pending return (he last fought in 2020) has only brewed more controversy, speculation and attention. How will the G.O.A.T. look at heavyweight? Will he get knocked out? Everyone is yearning to see Jones fight again. A matchup vs Ngannou would’ve weaved the viewership from the oldhead Jones stans and the new fans, who know “The Predator” as the UFC’s soul taker, into one explosive spectacle.

Also, neither Jones nor Ngannou has ever been finished in MMA. Everyone loves seeing an untouchable fighter hit the canvas. But why is Jones-Ngannou a bigger missed fight than Khabib-Tony, for example? Well, I’d argue the UFC is more popular than ever. The promotion reportedly earned $2 billion in 2021, and the rise of social media combined with marketable fighters has cemented the UFC’s pound-for-pound king status.

The UFC fumbled the ball by losing Ngannou. On the flip side, we’re left with an intriguing bout between Jones and Gane. Let’s get real, though, it’s no Jones-Ngannou. With such high standards, this is still a letdown. Plus, my gut tells me we could see Gane and Jones (who’ve both fought hesitantly in the past) jab each other to death for 25 minutes instead of going to war. There would’ve been no running from big Francis. 

In the end, these things happen. Deals fall through and guys leave. That’s the fight business. But when UFC 285 rolls around and it gets into the wee hours of the night, don’t ignore that feeling in your gut, the one that tells you something is missing. As an MMA fan, you should feel gypped, because Jones-Ngannou is the greatest UFC fight that never happened, and nothing can replace it. 

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