Two weeks ago, things were looking up for Jon Jones. Following a worrisome wobble in his personal life that resulted in an aggravated DWI conviction and one year of supervised probation, the Light Heavyweight champion seemed eager to refocus on his fight career and finally knock off some of the big challenges that would cement his position as G.O.A.T. for decades to come.
Jump forward to today (Sunday May 31, 2020) ...
Jones has just announced via social media that he is vacating his 205-pound title and isn’t coming back unless something serious changes regarding his pay. “Let me know if you guys want to set up a day in 2021 for that Izzy [Israel Adesanya] fight,” he wrote. “Hopefully you guys will be willing to pay by then.”
How did it all go so wrong? The relationship between Jones and UFC has been extremely complicated over the years, with events being mangled, moved and occasionally outright canceled because of various incidents. But since Jones’ latest return from a USADA suspension, the two sides have generally worked well together.
Now, let’s take a look at how things went sour over two short weeks, in Jones’ own words on Twitter.
I’d love to fight him again. I’m just waiting for the UFC to make the reward worth the risk. Unless the organization treat it like a super fight, I might as well stay on schedule fighting the next guy in line https://t.co/gBKBsGnrIk— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) May 12, 2020
This gives you a good lay of the land as we get into things. This has been Jones’ position for a while now: if UFC wants him to do anything other than face the next No. 1-ranked contender for the Light Heavyweight belt, then it has to sweeten the pot for him. That means no rematch with Thiago Santos. No rematch with Dominick Reyes. And no move up to Heavyweight.
Who would you guys consider the quicker and more technical striker Thiago Santos or Francis? If you guys think I wouldn’t take this fight you’re insane. I have absolutely nothing else to prove as a light heavyweight. I’d love that big money fight right around now. Send the deal— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) May 14, 2020
Got fights all over the place at heavyweight, the Thiago and Dominic rematches, Middleweights talking big and of course Jan waiting for his opportunity. Call it what you want, your boys hot right now. I got a feeling my career is about to blow up and I am going to be ready for it— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) May 16, 2020
With UFC back and rolling with events, Jones spends fight nights on Twitter interacting with fans. The topic of Francis Ngannou (who just knocked out Jairzinho Rozenstruik at UFC 249) comes up a lot, and Jones starts actively pushing for the fight. For the first time in a while, he sounds energized at the prospect of pushing outside of his standard wheelhouse of holding the 205-pound throne. Fans are excited at the prospect (if a bit skeptical as a move to heavyweight has been teased for years — always with the caveat that UFC would have to pay him, of course).
Even with the MMA Twitterverse buzzing about a potential Jones vs. Ngannou “super” fight, UFC President, Dana White, doesn’t sound enthusiastic about the idea at all.
“I don’t know if those guys really want that fight,” White said during the post-fight press conference for Saturday’s final UFC event in Jacksonville Florida. “Let me tell you this ... and I’m not saying this is the case with these two. You see a lot of talk online or whatever it might be. Actually making fights is a whole other ball game.”
Send The Deal— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) May 18, 2020
That’s me right before the OSP fight. That was the biggest I had ever been and actually my first fight fighting under USADA‘s guidelines. I was 240 pounds in that picture, right around the weight I’ll probably be when I win the heavyweight championship of the world. https://t.co/q84LPpzSMd— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) May 19, 2020
The more I think about it if I’m going to be taking big risks, I might as well go for all the cheese. I want that crown too. Send a deal. The Goodwill in Albuquerque is about to get hooked up with some bomb ass 36 waist jeans— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) May 21, 2020
unbelievable— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) May 21, 2020
This is wild: we get to see just how long it takes for Jones to go from super psyched and ready to move to Heavyweight for one of the biggest fights of his career to just ... shocked at how poorly negotiations with UFC have gone. At 5:55 p.m. ET, he shares he’s talking to UFC about the Ngannou fight. By 6:24 p.m. ET, it sounds like things have broken down and the fight is a no go.
Before even discussing numbers, the UFC was unwilling to pay more for the Francis super fight / for me to move to heavyweight. Said I could possibly earn more in pay-per-view buys.— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) May 21, 2020
Honestly no, not in the stage of my career. I could retire today. I’ve already done my job, I’ve given this company over a decade of entertainment. https://t.co/8V3iORDXAk— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) May 21, 2020
It’s been fun you guys, maybe I’ll see you all in a year or two.— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) May 21, 2020
It’s been fun you guys, maybe I’ll see you all in a year or two.— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) May 21, 2020
Maybe when they’re ready to do better business I’ll come back, until then health fitness and family.— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) May 21, 2020
Here’s Jones’ first tease of a potential walk away. But before things get out of control, he reigns things in. Back to fighting for his standard contracted rate against the #1 contender.
I should’ve worded that differently, I actually think these guys do great business. Right now things just aren’t where I want them to be.— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) May 21, 2020
I’ve had some time to think about it and Im a lot less emotional. Just sad that the ufc doesn’t see my value against the scariest HW in the world. Jan I guess you’re next in line #badbusiness #shocked— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) May 22, 2020
It’s interesting to just sit here and watch your boss lie to the camera like this. We never discussed any increase in pay. Immediately the conversation was that I already made enough. I never made a number offer. https://t.co/YYx4FMHeIs— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) May 29, 2020
If you’re not going to change my contract for the heavyweight move, at least have the decency to be honest with the fans.— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) May 29, 2020
I was over the situation, but I’m not gonna sit back and allow Dana to lie to the fans. I never asked for an absurd amount of money. That’s bullshit— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) May 29, 2020
Absolute bullshit— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) May 29, 2020
The s**t hits the fan. Dana White tells ESPN that Jones was demanding “an absurd amount of money,” which Jones continued to claim wasn’t true, as they never even made it to a point where they could negotiate money. It’s never good when the word “lie” is used. Jones was quite clear: Dana White was lying about what happened.
I’m not going to give up hope the way I’m taking this whole thing is @Ufc don’t want to budget the Jon Jones heavyweight move up right now. They should’ve just said that, lying on me and saying I asked for too much it’s just unfair. That was unnecessary.— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) May 29, 2020
You already let me down a bit by shutting down this Francis Mega fight, don’t add salt to the wound by telling the fans something that’s not the truth.— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) May 29, 2020
if you’re wondering I’m not fighting with Ufc. I’m not mad at Dana or beefing. Just surprised he went that route. I said my piece, I’m over it— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) May 29, 2020
No not really, shit reminds me of Ufc 151 all over again. https://t.co/02DHm77YcF— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) May 29, 2020
If you’re going to stick to these lies, I’m going to stick to defending myself. Please have your lawyer Hunter Campbell release those text messages.— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) May 29, 2020
Don’t be a fucking liar, my reputation has already taking enough hits. I don’t need this bullshit Dana. I never asked for Diante Wilder‘s numbers. And how about since Diante is making 30 million, we settle for half of that. Since you said I’m the goat and everything.— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) May 29, 2020
I don’t even make half of half of what Diante Wilder makes. If my reputation causes you to undervalue me this much. Just go ahead and release me from my @Ufc contract altogether. I’m sure some promoter somewhere will be more than happy to pick me up.— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) May 29, 2020
And if I wanted to compare money to someone else, I would compare money to my brothers. I see firsthand the way the NFL treats their champion athletes, there’s a huge difference. I’ve kept my mouth shut my entire career.— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) May 29, 2020
Do I make 5+ per fight yes. Should I stick to that number for my super fights? No. If you don’t agree with me you just don’t know business. I certainly didn’t ask for 30, never even threw out a number.— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) May 29, 2020
Jones returns to Twitter to again voice his disappointment in how everything went. The way he tells it, he came to UFC about the Ngannou fight and had the door slammed in his face. And then UFC President, Dana White, used his media connections to paint Jones as the unreasonable one.
What’s most interesting to me here: Jones admits he makes $5+ million per fight currently. And then says he’d be happy to “settle” for half of what Deontay Wilder makes, or $15 million. Knowing those numbers, it sounds like UFC is quibbling over maybe $7 million more in pay for Jones to make the Ngannou fight, something that would undoubtedly rake in the equivalent of a million plus buys. Hmmm ...
The reporter asked Dana to show the text messages instead he gives a 55 second response talking about why would I lie ♂️— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) May 31, 2020
At no point did I ever demand anything from you Dana, I simply asked for a Super fight and asked to be compensated for it. You are the one who started talking negotiations publicly and showing the world how much you’ve been withholding from your athletes this whole time— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) May 31, 2020
Hunter and I had a very respectful conversation, I love how you’re trying to paint this picture of me being some angry guy disrespectfully demanding money. And then bringing up my out of the cage affairs to justify under paying me by tens of millions for years— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) May 31, 2020
You’re talking all that big guy stuff about not caring, put your money where your mouth is and release me from that contract— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) May 31, 2020
I’d probably make more in my first boxing match than my next three UFC fights combined. There’s real estate, acting, just kicking it and being a dad. No one needs to put up with Dana‘s lies https://t.co/YKYKhqfR47— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) May 31, 2020
Following Saturday’s UFC on ESPN 9: “Woodley vs. Burns” event, White goes into a rant on Jones. “I tarnished you? You’ve done a very good job of tarnishing you,” White says at one point.
Jones does not react very positively to that, and reveals all of White’s talk about text message demands are completely made up - there are no texts from Jones demanding Deontay Wilder money or anything else. In a sane world when two sides are clearly speaking past each other, now would be the time to sit down and try and salvage things. But, then Jones pushes the nuclear button.
#ESPN Reyes vs Jan For the UFC light heavyweight championship of the world. As of right now, I got nothing to really gain fighting either of them. Let me know if you guys want to set up a day in 2021 for that Izzy fight. Hopefully you guys will be willing to pay by then.— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) May 31, 2020
Bones out, when you see me in the streets just call me JJ— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) May 31, 2020
To the light heavyweight title Veni, vidi, vici— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) May 31, 2020
I hurt myself every time I walk out there and take a punch to the head and Not feel my pay is worth it anymore. https://t.co/X3BjGA9d02— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) May 31, 2020
And that’s where we sit right now. Of course, it’s worth noting that Jones almost walked away the first time negotiations fell through, and then walked things back. Will he do something similar in a few days? We imagine there’s a process that is more detailed than sending an angry tweet when it comes to vacating your title, since so many of UFC’s contract terms are involved.
But as it stands, it’s clear that Jones and White have not been on good terms for years. UFC’s one-sided negotiating tactics have been a source of much unhappiness amongst fighters for years, and there’s a very good chance Jones is indeed sick of dealing with the headaches that come from trying to forge one’s own path rather than accept whatever UFC will give you.
What do you think, Maniacs? Is this move from Jones going to stick or will cooler heads prevail?