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Jon Jones ‘shocked’ by UFC refusal to negotiate on Ngannou fight

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The long-reigning UFC light heavyweight champion has been operating operating under the understanding that if he wanted to make big money in the Octagon, he’d have to take big risks.

Love him or hate him, for most of the past decade Jon Jones has been one of the UFC’s biggest, most consistently drawing stars. He’s had his conflicts with UFC brass over the years, and his legal problems—and drug testing problems. But there can be little doubt that over that same stretch, he’s helped make the UFC a whole lot of money.

All of which, apparently, came with an understanding: if he ever wanted to really up his pay grade in the Octagon, he’d have to take on more risk. In a recent interview on The MMA Road Show with John Morgan, Jones spoke about his seemingly failed negotiations with the UFC over a potential heavyweight fight with Francis Ngannou. What looked like a true ‘superfight’ in the making, with both parties interested, quickly fell to pieces when the UFC refused to budge on renegotiating Jones’ contract. A situation that left the Jackson-Wink athlete totally flabbergasted.

“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 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.”

Jones went on to explain that he feels that a bout with Ngannou is potentially “one of the riskiest fights in the history of the sport as far as what he has with his skillset and our size difference.” But his attempts to bring any kind of pay-bump to the table for the bout were met with a flat “no” from the UFC. A stance Jones feels didn’t have anything to do with the current coronavirus pandemic or the lack of gate revenue.

“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.”

If that’s the deal on offer, it doesn’t sound like Jones is going to be thinking about taking a jump up a division anytime soon. And if the UFC really isn’t willing to come back to the table, it may even be that he won’t be fighting at light heavyweight anytime soon either.

“I feel like I don’t have to answer to them,” Jones said, “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.”