If Dana White and Jon Jones fail to bridge their differences it will deprive UFC fans of one of the most exciting match-ups the promotion could make and leave them ruing another one that got away.
Entangled in an ugly war of words, Jones sent his message loud and clear to the UFC on Monday: “Please cut me already… just let me f*cking go.”
Jones has had enough, and any discussions over a potential blockbuster with newly-crowned UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou already look dead in the water after barely being floated.
Instead of looking towards one of the most anticipated fights in UFC heavyweight history – a match-up which makes perfect sense for both Jones and Ngannou – we’re back at square one, mired in an ugly slanging match.
We were here one year ago when talk first began in earnest about Jones (then light-heavyweight ruler) moving up to meet Ngannou. That all collapsed in on itself, supposedly within just a few hours of discussions getting going.
“Just sad that the UFC doesn’t see my value against the scariest heavyweight in the world,” Jones had tweeted last March.
Fast forward one year, and that tune hasn’t changed. The numbers still don’t add up for Jones, who hasn’t fought since he claimed a contentious decision victory against Dominick Reyes at UFC 247 last February.
While Jones formally vacated the light-heavyweight title in August, he did not remove himself entirely from the game, instead plotting a move to heavyweight which has evidently gathered momentum through his training in recent months.
Soon after Ngannou was crowned the new heavyweight ruler in Las Vegas on Saturday, Jones channeled his inner Jerry Maguire, imploring the UFC to “show me the money.” The indication was clear that he wanted to be next up for the formidable Cameroonian KO artist, assuming the price was the right.
Show me the money
— BONY (@JonnyBones) March 28, 2021
But no sooner had fans’ excitement been reignited than a suspicious Dana White doused cold water on the idea, questioning whether Jones really would practice what he preached when it came to stepping in the octagon with the most frightening force in the UFC.
“I can sit here all day and tell you, what’s show me the money mean?” White told reporters after UFC 260. “I tell you guys this all the time. You can say you want to fight somebody, but do you really want to?”
Here was White speaking about a man he has long proclaimed to be MMA’s ‘GOAT’ – and who still sits atop the UFC’s pound-for-pound rankings. It smacked of the lingering mutual mistrust which clearly exists between the pair.
“What type of weird sh*t is this, obviously the boss hates me. Let me take my business elsewhere,” was another of Jones’ barbs as he demanded to be released on Monday, in a tirade which has since been deleted.
There are clearly a whole host of sticking points to navigate if we are ever to see Jones and the UFC set aside their differences and give fans the fight with Ngannou they are so desperate to see.
Money, however, is the most glaringly obvious issue. Jones has evoked the name of Conor McGregor in his argument to secure a bigger slice of the UFC pie, suggesting that his standing entitles him to the kind of top dollar that the Irishman typically commands each time he makes a trip to octagon.
Jones has also spoken about “Deontay Wilder money”, referring to the former WBC world heavyweight boxing champion who is said to have banked upwards of $25 million, all told, from his rematch with Tyson Fury last year.
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Jones has earned no more than $500,000 to show for any of his headline UFC contests to date, which even when factoring in substantial additional revenue such as PPV cuts, bonuses and sponsorship would leave him way short of the likes of McGregor (or Wilder, for that matter).
If Jones is the GOAT – as White has asserted – then he clearly wants to be paid like it. He is the owner of a lengthy list of UFC records and is yet to be defeated legitimately inside the octagon. Even with the unsavory backdrop of doping scandals and his run-ins with the law, Jones’ place on MMA’s Mount Rushmore appears secure, at least if based solely on fighting credentials.
His financial aspirations may have been influenced by the examples of his two NFL star brothers, Arthur and Chandler, who have out-earned him with their Gridiron careers. Jones alluded to that with one of his many tweets in recent days, writing: “It’s like my brothers with football. Once they both got their Super Bowl rings, they went after the money contracts.”
White, though, may well be wary of setting a precedent by caving to Jones over those demands. White hasn’t helped build the UFC into what it is today without being shrewd or ruthless along the way. Whether that entails exploitation of fighters or sheer hard-headed business sense will depend on whose side you are on.
If McGregor is a name Jones wants to bring into the argument, then White could point to his pulling power compared to that of the Irishman – who has been part of each of the biggest five PPV events in UFC history, while Jones doesn’t feature as a headliner anywhere in the top 10. (Although in return, Jones could point out that he is still estimated to have generated tens of millions for the promotion in revenues down the years.)
More ammunition for White could be Jones’ most recent octagon outings, which have been far from vintage. Many felt he was lucky to get the decision against Reyes in their contest last February. (Reyes went on to be well beaten when he contested the vacant 205lbs title against Jan Blachowicz in September.)
A meeting with Ngannou could, of course, top anything that has come before for ‘Bones’. A step up into the unknown, and against one of the hottest names in the promotion. It’s a fight which would be every marketer’s dream – a man cementing a legacy against a rival trying to forge one.
Beyond the saccharine narratives, it would be intriguing to see how Jones handles the punching power from Ngannou and whether his cage guile remains what it was in his heyday.
Once the UFC’s youngest-ever champion, Jones is still only 33 years of age. The Ngannou fight is one which has been on his lips for at least the past two years and was even something he mentioned as exciting to him in an interview with RT just before his return from his doping ban back in 2018.
As much as heavyweight contended Derrick Lewis is beloved by fans, pitting him against Ngannou next would not come close to whetting the appetites of fans in the way that a match-up with Jones would.
Blockbuster fights itching to be made have fallen by the wayside in the past, of course, fading into MMA folklore as pure conjecture and “what might have been.”
This time, though, fans will be keeping everything crossed that Dana White, Jon Jones, or both, can put any bad blood aside and reach a mutually satisfactory deal – and no less importantly, gives the fans what they so clearly crave at the pinnacle of the UFC’s heavyweight ranks.