Jon Jones is willing to take a prolonged hiatus from fighting if Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) isn’t ready to show him the money and bring his storied career to the next level.
Jones, who is the current UFC light heavyweight champion and arguably the best fighter in MMA history, tried to implement his much talked about move up to heavyweight when he challenged knockout sensation Francis Ngannou earlier this week. Most fans around the sport, including former UFC champion Daniel Cormier, looked at Jones’ decision as “gangster” and simply couldn’t believe the idea of a Jones vs. Ngannou superfight in 2020.
Unfortunately for all parties involved, UFC wasn’t willing to dish out the extra cash it would take for Jones to make the move from 205 pounds. That prompted Jones to threaten a year-long hiatus from the sport as he feels undervalued and underappreciated during a time when he’s willing to put his entire UFC legacy on the line.
Until now, fight fans didn’t fully understand the story behind Jones’ late-night tweets and failed contract negotiations with UFC.
“The UFC clearly told me that they would redo my contract the day I went heavyweight, and it would be a different deal, so I’ve always held that in my back pocket, that my goal is to fight at light heavyweight for a long time until I got to a place that I’ve got nothing else to prove, and then retire as a heavyweight with some real big fights – risk putting it all on the line against these guys that could cause some serious damage,” Jones told MMA Junkie’s John Morgan. “Thursday, I found out that that’s just simply not happening, and it’s upsetting. I feel like someone’s put a little bit of a limit on my ceiling.”
Jones, 32, has been part of UFC since 2008 and has competed in championship fights for the past 10 years. Despite his tenure in the biggest MMA promotion in the world, “Bones” still needs more compensation to warrant a matchup with a hulking heavyweight like Ngannou.
“I had a conversation with one of the higher-ups, and before we got into money, it wasn’t like I asked for too much money, it was just flat out, ‘No,’ right off the bat,” Jones said.
Jones doesn’t believe the current state of UFC during the COVID-19 pandemic has anything to do with the promotion denying him more money to fight Ngannou. The reigning UFC light heavyweight champion believes the company isn’t willing to offer him more money than he is already making until he partakes in the “money fights” first.
“They didn’t say anything about a gate or the pandemic or anything like that,” Jones said. “They just said that they feel like they’re taking care of me pretty good and that if I want to make more money, inevitably my money will go up by fighting Francis and those more entertaining fights. But that just wasn’t the deal, originally. They told me it would be a new contract if I went up to the heavyweight division.
“It was just in my plans to have my biggest fights towards the end of my career. Now I know that I’m not going to be making those kind of jumps in my life. It’s just shitty because you feel like someone’s put a cap on your capabilities, that someone put a cap on your possibilities.”
While Jones has given UFC plenty of reasons over the past few years to cast him aside the light heavyweight champion is still the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. Jones has had close fights in his last few contests against the likes of Dominick Reyes and Thiago Santos, but there’s no denying how good “Bones” truly is.
That’s why Jones needs a little something extra from the promotion to take a big risk of fighting “Predator” at heavyweight.
“We’d never had a serious talk about heavyweight, but in the few times that we had, they made it clear to me that when I’m ready to go heavyweight, that’s when we can come back to the table and talk about paying me those life-changing fight numbers,” Jones said. “Let’s call it what it is: Jon Jones-Stipe Miocic? Superfight. Daniel Cormier? Superfight. Francis Ngannou is a superfight.
“Even if you didn’t want to change my contract, the fact that they didn’t want to sign me up for a one-fight deal to fight a guy that’s 40 pounds bigger than me, the scariest dude on the planet – Francis Ngannou, the guy that nobody wants to fight, I’m willing to fight him while being smaller than him, and you’re not going to pay me $1 more? You mean to tell me that this fight isn’t worth anything more than me stepping in against a Jan Blachowicz? It’s just insulting. Everyone would love to see me take this risk, and they offered me zero upside. They offered me absolutely zero upside.”
“You’re willing to pay other fighters tens of millions of dollars to fight, but you’re not going to give me $1 extra to put my life on the line against Francis Ngannou?” Jones asked. “You’re asking me to take the single riskiest fight in the UFC, period, and you don’t want to pay me more for that? That’s probably one of the riskiest fights in the history of the sport as far as what he has with his skillset and our size difference.”
Despite all of the recent turmoil, Jones is still willing to entertain the superfight as long as both sides can come to an agreement.
“I just feel like someone’s put a cap on me, and it’s shitty,” Jones said. “I was willing to dive in the deep end and give the fans fireworks, and they flat out told me it’s not worth anything. I literally make the same amount if I fight Jan Blachowicz. Ask any reasonable fan, ‘Who would you fight?’
“They’re pretty much telling me no matter who you fight moving forward, your baseline is going to be stuck at the progressional rate that it’s at. I can talk as much shit as I want. I can post Instagram videos all day long and try to dress the best I can, but I can’t control who’s going to order the fight that night, so you’re tying my hands here in a way.”
If nothing does get done over the next few months Jones is content to sit on the sidelines until 2021 and see if something big comes along. “Bones” just doesn’t see the value in fighting whoever the light heavyweight division spits out, especially if Jones is finally ready to make the jump up in weight for bigger fights.
“If this is how the UFC feels about me and that I’m really worth, and they don’t want to give me a piece of the pie in any way, then I don’t want to have to live by their schedule,” Jones said. “I feel like I don’t have to answer to them if this is how they’re going to treat me. I’m totally fine with them vacating the belt, letting someone else fight for the belt, and I’ll come around I guess when I’m ready to, and I’ll see if they’re willing to pay for a really big fight. But as of right now, to fight Jan Blachowicz, what do I have to gain there? To fight Dominick Reyes? Any one of them, I don’t have much to gain in these situations.
“As a partner, it was always very clear that my best days would be when I move to heavyweight, but now they just shit on all that, and I’m hurt, to be honest with you.”
What say you, Manics? Will this recent spat with UFC force Jones to sit out? Should the promotion pay him what he wants given his storied past?
Let’s hear it!