Longstanding UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones has decided to officially vacate his title and confirmed plans to move up to heavyweight.
The American, regarded by many as the sport’s all-time greatest athlete, made the announcement via social media early Tuesday, although the UFC have yet to comment.
Jones has been involved in a high-profile pay dispute with the promotion and has previously threatened to walk away from the sport.
However, on Tuesday morning he tweeted: “Today I confirm that I’m vacating the light heavyweight championship. It’s officially up for grabs. It’s been an amazing journey, sincere thank you to all my competition, UFC and most importantly you fans.”
Jones, 33, has dominated at light heavyweight since winning the title in 2011, although he has had to reclaim his crown three times having been stripped for multiple violations, including doping. Two doping violations have restricted him to only six fights since 2015.
Jones last competed in February, when he defeated Dominick Reyes at UFC 247 by a contentious - albeit unanimous - decision in Houston, Texas to retain his belt. The victory moved Jones to 26-1 (1 no contest) – his one defeat arrived in 2009 – and took him to a record 14 title-fight wins.
Jones teased a move to heavyweight immediately following Stipe Miocic's successful title defence against Daniel Cormier at UFC 252 on Sunday. On Tuesday, he added on the social media platform: "Just had a really positive conversation with UFC. Sounds like there will be negotiations for my next fight at heavyweight. All good news, the weight gaining process begins."
Jones would most probably be hoping for an immediate match-up with Miocic, who concluded his trilogy with Cormier with a unanimous decision win in Las Vegas. However, UFC president Dana White confirmed after the bout that No-2 contender Francis Ngannou is next in line for a title shot.
Tweeting after Miocic’s win, Jones had said: “Heavyweight world championships I will be seeing you real soon. For some reason these heavyweights don’t seem so big to me tonight.
“Avoid Stipe’s right hand, I’m too fast, I’ll be too strong when the time is right and have way too much energy. Soon and very soon I’ll be considered the baddest man on this planet.”
Jones is currently ranked top of the UFC's pound-for-pound rankings.