Jones made the declarations on Twitter on Monday, although the UFC didn’t immediately confirm them.
Jones and the UFC have both acknowledged contentious negotiations in recent weeks about the long-reigning champ’s next bout and the direction of the 205-pound division. Those discussions apparently culminated in Jones deciding to walk away from the division he has dominated when able to fight.
“Today I confirm that I’m vacating the light heavyweight championship,” Jones wrote. “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.”
The 33-year-old Jones is thinking seriously about making his long-anticipated move up to heavyweight, where Stipe Miocic reigns as champion after beating Jones’ archrival, Daniel Cormier, in their third fight last Saturday.
Jones tweeted that he “just had a really positive conversation with” the UFC.
“Sounds like there will be negotiations for my next fight at heavyweight,” Jones wrote. “All good news, the weight gaining process begins.”
Jones has entertained a move up before, but largely because he hoped to fight pro wrestling superstar Brock Lesnar in a wildly lucrative bout. He would have plenty of intriguing prospects for a heavyweight fight without the retired Lesnar, including Miocic or fearsome contender Francis Ngannou.
Jones is widely considered the greatest mixed martial artist of the past decade. He won the light heavyweight title in 2011 and has held it for much of the ensuing nine years, although he has had to reclaim the belt three times after getting stripped for multiple violations the UFC’s doping regulations and code of conduct.
Jones (26-1, 1 no contest) has fought just once in the past year, beating Dominick Reyes in a close unanimous decision in February. He has won a UFC-record 14 title fights, and he hasn’t lost any fight since 2009 — but thanks to two doping violations, Jones has fought only six times since January 2015.
Jones spoke with UFC President Dana White earlier this year about moving to heavyweight, but they clashed over money. Jones even entertained the possibility of leaving the UFC.
Jones live-tweeted his thoughts on the UFC 252 main event last Saturday night, offering a glimpse into his attitudes and beliefs about heavyweights.
Among his observations, Jones said there’s “a much slower pace in the heavyweight division ... like much much slower.”
“Heavyweight world championships I will be seeing you real soon,” Jones wrote. “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.”
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