Jon Jones Questions UFC’s Desire to Book Ngannou Fight, Says He Was Underpaid Throughout His 20s

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Jon Jones and Thiago Santos UFC
Jon Jones and Thiago Santos Credit: Gabriel Gonzalez/Cageside Press

The Jones Jones-UFC saga continues with no end in sight.

Jones has not fought since February of 2020, when he won a decision against Dominick Reyes at UFC 247. Since then, “Bones” has dropped his light heavyweight title, prepared for an eventual heavyweight run, and repeatedly clashed with promotion officials over his paycheck.

While it seemed as if the money talk had died down, it erupted all over again following Francis Ngannou’s victory against Stipe Miocic at UFC 260 this past weekend. Jones had been promised the next title shot, but his immediate reaction, posted to social media, was “show me the money.” After UFC President Dana White suggested top contender Derrick Lewis was the fight to make instead, Jones balked. “Please just cut me already,” he posted on social media, which is where the bulk of this drama has played out.

On Wednesday, Jones was back at it. “I had a brief phone meeting with UFC’s lawyer Hunter [Campbell] a few days ago. As of right now I expressed to him that anywhere around eight to $10 million would be way too low for a fight of this magnitude. That’s all that has been discussed so far,” he stated, launching a series of posts outlining his gripes with the promotion, and his rate of pay with a company the former champ has fought for since 2008.

“I’m supposed to be waiting for what their offer is going to be. Really hoping the numbers are nowhere near that low. I guess we will see what happens,” Jones continued. It’s worth noting that the highest disclosed payday for any UFC fighter has been nowhere near that number. Conor McGregor saw $3 million for his rematch with Nate Diaz, and reportedly $5 million for his second fight with Dustin Poirier, though the number was never confirmed by the promotion or commission. If you add in pay-per-view dollars, that would be a different story, of course.

Jones doesn’t hint on whether he’s looking for that money up front. But he did rail against what he sees as years of working on the cheap. “I’ve been working my ass off for years, concussions, surgeries, fighting the toughest competition the UFC had to offer throughout my 20s for right around 2 million per fight,” he revealed. “I’m just trying to have my payday, the fight that all of us fighters believe is one day possible.”

Jones also drew a distinction between himself and the aforementioned McGregor, who has generally been able to bend the promotion to his will. “I tweeted show me the money and that evidentaly pissed off the boss. What a learning lesson. I feel like if Connor [sic] would’ve sent that same tweet there would have been a whisky night.”

“I believe I was grossly underpaid throughout my 20s. I’m not even here bitching about that. I just want to see the future done right,” he went on to add. Jones became the youngest UFC champion at 23 in 2011, just under three years after joining the company.

Fans may be taken aback by the numbers. $2 million isn’t a small amount of money. $8 to $10 million is almost unheard of in the sport, unless you take into consideration PPV dollars and McGregor, not to mention his foray into boxing. But the reality is, fighters have long been denied a bigger piece of the pie. The ongoing class action lawsuit against the UFC revealed what many had known for years, that fighters were getting less than 20% of the promotion’s revenue. In most major professional sports league, that number is closer to 50%.

While Jones has been paid better than some, he’s long been one of the greats of the sport. A fight with Ngannou would almost certainly draw better than some of his recent opponents. And if nothing else, Jones’ continued digs at the UFC has other fighters talking: recently, Luke Rockhold came out to decry the UFC’s “mafioso tactics” when negotiating contracts.

As of Wednesday evening, Jones was back at it, questioning how much the promotion really wanted to book the fight against Ngannou — turning Dana White’s own words back around in the process. “You could say you want Jon Jones versus Francis, but do you really want to [make it]?he questioned.

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