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What’s Your Beef With Jon Jones? In Anticipation Of UFC 285 On ESPN+ PPV Saturday, Four Experts Weighed In

Here's a look at how ESPN's team conceived and produced Thursday's ESPN+ special Jon Jones Returns: The Roundtable, featuring former Jones foes Daniel Cormier, Anthony Smith, Rashad Evans, and Dominick Reyes

The anticipation couldn’t be higher this Saturday, March 4, as MMA fans will witness one of the most historic UFC events of all time.

Considered by many the “GOAT of MMA,” Jon Jones makes his long-awaited return and heavyweight debut against Ciryl Gane. UFC 285: Jones vs. Gane will stream live from Las Vegas (10 p.m. ET, ESPN+ PPV).

When the event was announced, the ESPN UFC production team started brainstorming new and unique opportunities to promote the fight.

It knew it had to involve ESPN MMA analyst and UFC Hall Of Famer Daniel Cormier – who had two brawls with Jones – and relive the history behind fighting Jones. And they wanted to do it all live from Las Vegas.


“We know that Daniel Cormier is not only one of the biggest names in the sports, but arguably Jon Jones’ biggest rival,” said Jake Lebowitz, ESPN producer, UFC and MMA. “We knew we had a great chance to bring in fighters who have one thing in common, having fought Jon, so the ball started rolling from there.”

The result was Thursday night’s ESPN+ presentation Jon Jones Returns: The Roundtable special pre-show (watch here on ESPN MMA YouTube).

ESPN produced the show in the middle of Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Hotel & Casino floor, witnessed by hundreds of fans who are in town for the big night. Watch highlights of the show in the video embedded above.

The show brought together Cormier, Rashad Evans, Anthony Smith, and Dominick Reyes. They all had different experiences fighting Jones (26-1), who dominated the light heavyweight division but has not fought since February 2020.

In July 2019, Jon Jones (L) jousted with Thiago Santos in a light heavyweight title bout at UFC 239.
(Al Powers/ESPN Images)

As Reyes told Lebowitz earlier this week as they prepared the show, “the four of them are part of a special fraternity, and they will get to share some unique insight with all their fans.

“It was not difficult to bring all four fighters together,” added Lebowitz. “Once we had conversations with each of them, laid out the concept of the roundtable and the opportunity to have a casual conversation about their experiences, they were all in.”

Jones holds the UFC records for most title fight wins (14), most light heavyweight wins (20), and the longest light heavyweight win streak (13).

“The hype for Jones’ return was already at a level we haven’t seen in the sport for a long time. After having listened to these four fighters tell their stories about Jon, it could have only enhanced the anticipation each fan had for Jones’ return Saturday night,” Lebowitz told Front Row after the live show.

“For any fan of Jon Jones or just MMA, this roundtable was a must-listen because you won’t find this type of analysis anywhere else. The way these four men dove deep into personal stories about Jon and how their fights with Jones shaped their careers was fascinating content.”

Cormier will continue to be a key component of ESPN’s coverage of UFC 285 as he calls the fight alongside Jon Anik and Joe Rogan. As Cormier explains in the ESPN YouTube video below, while he lost both matches with Jones, he respects his fellow legend’s talent.

Gaby Nunez contributed to this post
Spencer T. Jackson and ESPN UFC Production produced the Roundtable highlight video above

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