LAS VEGAS -- The most successful heavyweight fighter in UFC history will be waiting in the wings for the winner of this weekend's title bout.
Stipe Miocic, the former two-time UFC heavyweight champion, will get the next heavyweight title shot, UFC president Dana White told reporters Friday. Jon Jones and Ciryl Gane will fight for the vacant belt Saturday night here at T-Mobile Arena.
"He's absolutely the next one," White said of Miocic. "So, whoever wins on Saturday night will face Stipe next."
Miocic, who is currently in Las Vegas, has said in several interviews that he is under the impression he'll get either Jones or Gane next for a chance at a third title reign, perhaps as soon as July.
Francis Ngannou knocked out Miocic to win the heavyweight title in March 2021 at UFC 260. He then defeated Gane to defend the belt at UFC 270 in January 2022. Ngannou needed knee surgery after that bout and then departed the UFC as a free agent earlier this year, relinquishing the belt. That set up the Jones-Gane bout for the vacant title.
Jones, the longtime former UFC light heavyweight champion, will be moving up to heavyweight for the first time and is coming off a three-year layoff. If he were to beat Gane on Saturday, it would set up Jones vs. Miocic -- a historic battle between arguably the best UFC light heavyweight ever against the best UFC heavyweight.
As for Ngannou, White said the door is closed on a return to the UFC for the man who is currently ESPN's top-ranked heavyweight in the world. White said he never says never, but "I'll give you never on that one."
"We negotiated with him for years," White said. "It's over. That's over. He'll never be in the UFC again."