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Francis Ngannou has been among the most vocal proponents of increased fighter pay in the UFC — but the organisation’s heavyweight champ has identified another route to inflating his pay packet.

Ngannou remains on the shelf as he recovers from knee surgery required after he suffered an injury in training prior to his title defence against Ciryl Gane earlier this year but the giant Cameroonian’s future remains a subject of intense debate given that he will become a full free agent early in 2023 after fighting out the terms of his existing contract.

But while questions remain as to Ngannou’s very future in the sport given his ambitions in the boxing ring, one opponent who seems to be of interest to him is a former champion who hasn’t stepped into the cage in two-and-a-half years: Jon Jones.

Jones remains in exile ahead of a supposed heavyweight debut after ending his spell in the light heavyweight fold and has been linked to a potential fight with Stipe Miocic — but Ngannou admits that he would relish the challenge against the former longtime 205 king.

“As my preferred opponent, it would be Jon Jones obviously,” Ngannou said said to MMA on Sirius XM. “That’s what I’ve always wanted, I need that big payday.

“Also this has to be a big statement, fighting Jon Jones is more than a payday. It’s a big challenge, the guy has been dominating the sport for over a decade so I think he’s a very good guy.”

And if Ngannou knows what he wants when he gets back, he is perhaps less sure of exactly when that might be.

“The recovery has been good, it’s moving slow but I think it makes sense because they said it would take a minimum of nine months for just ACL but because I also have an LCL [injury] it might be about 10 months,” he explained. “It’s been six months but it feels like it’s been forever. I am able to workout now, do strength and conditioning and hit some mitts. The goal in the next two months is for me to be back in the gym, fully training.”

But the one thing ‘The Predator’ appears certain of it’s that he isn’t going to rush his way back to the cage.

“I hope in the next two to three months, we get to deal with that. To solve that. It’s not surprising to me. I think we’re not in a rush. I’m not in a rush, either. I’m not going anywhere, so I’m not rushing. At the end of the day, we have time.”