Jon Jones marked his return to the octagon with an emphatic first-round victory against Ciryl Gane at UFC 285 to claim the world heavyweight title.
Competing in the promotion for the first time in more than three years, the American submitted Gane by guillotine choke two minutes and four seconds in the headline bout at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Sunday morning.
Jones, the former long-time light heavyweight champion, was debuting at heavyweight, while Gane is a former interim belt-holder. The victory lifted Jones’ professional MMA record to 27-1.
"For all you prayer warriors out there, I felt you so strongly all week,” Jones told Joe Rogan inside the octagon immediately afterwards. “I want to thank each and every one of you who prayed for me.
"Man, I'm so excited. I've been working for this for a long time. A lot of people thought I wouldn't be coming back... I've been reading that a lot. But I've been faithful to the goal, faithful to the mission."
Jones, who thanked his family and team, conceded he "felt a little goofy on the feet” but said: “I had the strong conviction that if I could get him down to the ground, the fight would be in my area. I've been wrestling since I was 12 years old and I feel stronger than more comfortable than ever, especially on the ground."
Jones, 35, was pitched a bout in July against former two-time heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic, and replied: “Oh yeah baby. Y'all want to see me beat up Stipe? One thing I know about the UFC is they give the fans the fights they want to see. Stipe, I hope you're training, baby.”
In the card’s other title fight, Alexa Grasso stunned champion Valentina Shevchenko to claim the flyweight belt via a fourth-round submission. In winning, the Mexican ended Shevchenko’s nine-fight win streak and seven-fight title defence – the Kyrgyzstani athlete last tasted defeat six years ago.