Ever since Francis Ngannou became the UFC heavyweight champion at UFC 260 with a second-round knockout of Stipe Miocic, the masses have been calling for a super fight between the new champion and former light heavyweight champion, Jon Jones. Both Jones and Ngannou have also made it known that they want the fight but the only hold-up is a contract dispute between Jones and the UFC.
Never mind the resumes both Ngannou and Jones would carry into the fight, the implications of what it would mean for both fighters is exactly why the UFC needs to pony up and pay him the right amount. Jones has recently said that $8 to $10 million is "way too low" for a fight against Ngannou, and given what the fight could do revenue-wise, it's hard to argue against that. At this point, it might be wise for the company to either hand Jones a blank check or meet him with an offer that's respectable and profitable for all parties involved.
Moving up to heavyweight: A bigger challenge, literally
For years Jon Jones was a mainstay inside the UFC's light heavyweight division, laying waste to all who stood opposite the Octagon from him, racking up 11 title defenses during two stints as champion. In those 11 title defenses, Jones defeated five opponents who were also light heavyweight champions at some point in their respective careers. In his last UFC appearance, Jones was pushed to the limit by Dominick Reyes in their light heavyweight title fight at UFC 247 in February of 2020, and after picking up the victory he would vacate the title.
Opening the door for a new era of light heavyweights to rise, Jones announced his intentions to move up to heavyweight and was immediately in the gym putting on weight and working his way up to 245 pounds in order to prepare for the bigger opponents who await him, including Ngannou, one of the hardest strikers in UFC history.
Showing a true commitment to this new challenge of heavyweight fighters is just one of the many reasons that the UFC needs to open their checkbook and gives Jones a contract that is worthwhile. He will be facing bigger competition, with stronger frames and more punishing striking power from the likes of Ngannou, Derrick Lewis, and Miocic who could all potentially be future opponents.
Risk vs reward: Jon Jones understands both sides
During a 2020 appearance on Steve-O's podcast, Jones detailed the risks and rewards of moving up to heavyweight, taking on an intimidating challenger like Ngannou who could "break his jaw" and those risks call for a bigger pay day. Jones also acknowledeged that a move up to heavyweight could mean his day "will come" and he could be on the losing end of a fight for the first time in his life.
The part that has yet to be put in the spotlight by Jones is the reward that could come with him securing the UFC heavyweight title. We are in a new era of UFC legacies, where double champion status across two different weight divisions carries the most weight as a defining moment for a fighter's legacy. It's not that Jones needs to become a two-weight champion in order to cement his place in UFC and MMA history, but to possibly defeat Ngannou and add another belt to to his career, would make a great argument for the greatest mixed martial artist of all-time.
$10 million is "way too low"
When it comes to UFC superstardom Jon Jones is in the same conversation as Conor McGregor because of the resumes and popularity they bring into each fight. That popularity leads to more interest which adds up to more PPV buys and ticket sales, and while the UFC is not operating under normal circumstances of full crowds, they can still afford to pay their biggest superstars.
Apples to apples: To bring a comparison, at UFC 257 with a limited crowd on 'Fight Island' McGregor made a disclosed amount of $3 million but walked away with much more after sponsorship revenue added in after the fact.
- After Jones made his intentions known about moving to heavyweight, UFC President Dana White said Jones was looking for "Deontay Wilder" money, which was around $25 million with added PPV percentage points, for his fight against Tyson Fury, a claim that Jones denied, but that should be the targeted range to get a deal done.
- With $8-10 million being "way too low" for Jones, he should be looking to get around the $25 million range and PPV percentage points included.
Not only is it a title fight, but Jones' champion resume is on the line, and he would be facing one of the scariest opponents of his career, that does matter.
Dana White vs Jon Jones
If Jon Jones and the UFC can not come to an agreement and the fight between him and Ngannou falls through, what is the backup plan for Jones' next move?
Why it matters: UFC President Dana White made it clear that Derrick Lewis could take Jones' spot if the UFC and Jones couldn't come to terms, but he never said what that would mean for Jones.
- After spending a year preparing and training for a heavyweight move, would the UFC offer him a fight with Stipe Miocic, and would they pay up for that fight?
- There's no logical reason that Jones or the UFC should expect a jump back down to light heavyweight for Jones, so are they content with leaving one of their biggest superstars on the sideline?
The bottom line: As much as it makes sense for the UFC to book (and pay) Jones vs Ngannou, it would be even more foolish for them to skip out on the big opportunity for a once-in-a-lifetime fight between two of the very best to ever grace the Octagon. Yes, it's dollars and cents when it comes to making a fight happen, but the dollars need to be there for Jones because this is the only UFC heavyweight title fight that makes sense to be next.