The relationship between UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and his employer has generally been solid one, even through all of Jones’ public missteps and scandals. However, following failed negotiations to land a heavyweight fight with Francis Ngannou, it appears the fighter and promotion are on the outs.
Enough so that, whether serious or not, Jon Jones just requested his release from the UFC.
To recap: Jones began entertaining the idea of a move to heavyweight to fight Ngannou after the latter’s performance at UFC 249. Ngannou, the would-be number one contender in the heavyweight division, made quick work of Jairzinho Rozenstruik that night.
The super-fight suggestion piqued interest, mainly because a trip up to heavyweight has long been envisioned for Jones. Only, as quick as they started, negotiations fell apart.
Both Jones and Dana White agree that the issue was money. What they differ on, apparently, is the amount.
Speaking to MMA Junkie in a media scrum in Las Vegas on Friday, the UFC President suggested Jones was asking for Deontay Wilder money. In the range of $30 million dollars. He also took Jones to task, after the champ suggested he’d lied about negotiations.
“It’s not like I can’t prove what I’m saying is true. We have text messages from him,” White stated. “But I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to put his text messages out in the press. I could. If Jon Jones wants to sit down and take a lie detector test about who’s lying and who’s not, we can do that too.”
Jones, upon hearing this, immediately disputed the notion, taking to social media to rip the UFC on what it has paid him over the years in the process.
“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,” Jones wrote on Twitter.
“Don’t be a f*cking liar. My reputation has already taking enough hits. I don’t need this bullsh*t Dana. I never asked for Diante [sic] Wilder‘s numbers. And how about since Diante [sic] is making 30 million, we settle for half of that since you said I’m the goat and everything,” Jones added. He’d go on to note that as a UFC champion, he makes less than half what the boxer rakes in each fight.
“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.”
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
Later, Jones would make an apt comparison about his earnings as a UFC champion.
“And if I wanted to compare money to someone else, I would compare money to my brothers,” wrote Jones. Both Arthur and Chandler Jones compete in the NFL. “I see first-hand the way the NFL treats their champion athletes, there’s a huge difference. I’ve kept my mouth shut my entire career.”
“Do I make 5+ per fight, yes,” he continued, referring to millions. “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.”
Jones may be one of the highest paid UFC athletes, but he’s also not blind. Bloody Elbow, The New York Post and other sources have revealed the shockingly low percentage of UFC revenue fighters actually take home. In a report earlier this year, the Post had the number at under 16% for 2019. An entry level fighter often finds themselves at 10/10 — $10,000 to show, $10,000 extra for a win. Reebok pay (which replaced sponsorships when the UFC introduced uniforms) gives that a slight bump.
Jones is clearly well past that level. However, it’s become apparent that he’s also aware of what he’s worth to the promotion. Whether either side will budge remains to be seen.