It feels like the path to Francis Ngannou’s first UFC title defense couldn’t be any more clearly laid out. Back in August of last year, longtime light heavyweight champion Jon Jones made it clear that he was taking a step he’d long teased: a move up to the heavyweight division.
‘Bones’ vacated his belt, hit the weight room, and started packing on the kind of muscle he’d likely need to make himself a true contender for heavyweight gold. And a few months later, Dana White seemingly cemented the whole idea when he publicly announced that Jones would be facing off against the winner of Miocic vs. Ngannou. After his title-winning victory, Ngannou even made the call-out himself.
“I think Jon Jones makes more sense for me,” Ngannou said when asked about potentially re-matching Stipe Miocic at the UFC 260 post-fight presser—adding that he would, however, be entirely willing to take on what ever fight the UFC puts in front of him.
If all parties want the same thing, then coming to a deal should be as easy as one-two-three right?
As is so often the case, it appears that money is the major sticking point in getting the bout done. Jon Jones is looking for a significant pay bump for taking what, to his mind, is a major risk with his career. And the UFC appear not to be having it. To the point that Dana White is even now claiming that Derrick Lewis vs. Francis Ngannou 2 is the fight to make, despite the first one being one of the worst things the UFC has ever put on television.
It’s unclear just how far apart Jones and the UFC are on money, but whatever the differences may be, they appear to have driven the longtime Jackson-Wink talent to despair. Jones posted a (quickly deleted) Twitter rant on Monday, March 29th, asking the UFC to terminate his contract rather than keep stringing him along.
Shortly after deleting those Tweets, Jones was back on Twitter with another barrage, once again looking for his UFC release.
Of course, this isn’t the first time that Jones’ interest in a heavyweight move has pushed him to seek out an exit from the promotion. Back in May of 2020, Jones compared his fight purses to those of heavyweight boxer Deontay Wilder, saying that he doesn’t even make half as much per fight. “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,” Jones wrote at the time.
For now, the UFC seems content to sit on Jones’ contract and wait for him to take a fight on their terms. Hopefully the two sides can find enough common ground to make Jones vs. Ngannou happen. If not, Derrick Lewis had better start preparing for his second chance for UFC gold.