Jon Jones insists he's serious about moving up to heavyweight to fight dangerous slugger Francis Ngannou. The problem, according to the UFC light heavyweight champion, is the promotion isn't willing to pay him extra to do so.
Jones (26-1, 1 NC) brought the results of his negotiation with UFC public on Thursday during a multi-tweet rant on social media. After years of teasing an eventual move up in weight, Jones finally appeared ready after the idea of a fight against Ngannou (15-3) seemed to materialize out of nowhere in the past week after the two exchanged trash talk.
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
Late Thursday, Jones went on to explain his stance even further during an exclusive interview with "The MMA Road Show with John Morgan," in which the 32-year-old revealed UFC reneged on a long-standing verbal agreement that he would be presented with a new contract whenever he was ready to test himself at heavyweight.
"Honestly, I'm just in a spot where I'm shocked," Jones said. "I feel like the UFC have told me and my management team for years that if I ever wanted to reach a certain level in the sport and really get to a certain level of pay, that I had to take the really big fights, and I had to kind of step out of my comfort zone and be willing to take those megafights -- and specifically, the heavyweight division.
"The UFC clearly told me that they would redo my contract the day I went [to] 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. 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."
Neither UFC nor president Dana White has commented on Jones' claim, which is consistent with the promotion's stance on not discussing negotiations publicly. The 33-year-old Ngannou, however, who is fresh off a scary streak of four victories via first-round knockout, shared his immediate disappointment on social media.
Should Jones' depiction of the negotiation process prove accurate, one can only speculate about UFC's current financial situation given parent company Endeavor recently cutting one-third of its workforce. During a recent interview with CBS Sports HQ, White denied Endeavor had anything to do with his promotion's brash push to become the first pro sports league to return to live action amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Still, the lack of a live gate for UFC for an undisclosed amount of time as state commissions ease back into normal life with empty arena cards might have played a role.
"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."
Jones initially seemed to tease the idea of using retirement as leverage after the negotiations fell apart. Either way, he shared a decided lack of motivation to continue defending his 205-pound title in high-risk, low-reward bouts against Jan Blachowicz or Dominick Reyes.
"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? Where's the compensation for the raw entertainment factor of watching Francis Ngannou fight against a guy who's 40 pounds smaller than him? How do I get compensated for that? That's my argument."
Despite a recent arrest for DWI, Jones claimed he is at a great place in his life and shared his hope in finding resolution with UFC despite being baffled he was offered the same money to fight Blachowicz as he was Ngannou. He did, however, close by mentioning the possibility of sitting out until 2021 to get what he feels he deserves.
"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."