Jon Jones vs Francis Ngannou seems like the bout that everyone wants to see right now, with both fighters and fans asking for the super-fight. It doesn’t seem to be anywhere close to being finalized though, as money still seems to be the sticking point.
Dana White doesn’t seem interested at all in giving Jones a good pay bump, and the UFC President has now gone on to claim that the long time light heavyweight champion is demanding $30 million.
“What we do is every Saturday night I put on fights and whoever wants to fight, we’ll make it and we’ll put ‘em in there,” White said (transcript via MMA Fighting). “We tried to work with Jon and we eventually have to move on. Because realistically, in all honesty, Derrick Lewis is the guy who deserves the fight. Derrick Lewis is a heavyweight, he beat Francis Ngannou, he’s looked good in his last couple of fights, he’s ranked in the top-three, I think. He deserves the fight, so that’s the fight that should happen, we’ll just roll and do what we do.
“When Jon’s ready, he’ll let us know.
“In his deal, he’s talking he wants $30 million guaranteed,” White said. “The way that this works is these guys all share in the pay-per-view, so you just said yourself you think that this is gonna be a big fight. I agree with you and think it’s gonna be a big fight, well he will share in the profits of the fight. That’s how it works. That’s how you run a business and you don’t go broke, that’s how that works.”
Jones has since issued a response, denying White’s claims and implying that he’s again lying to the public about their negotiations.
“I never discussed wanting 30 million with you or Hunter @danawhite,” Jones wrote. “Just wondering where you heard that number? Is someone speaking with you on my behalf or...”
I never discussed wanting 30 million with you or Hunter @danawhite just wondering where you heard that number? Is someone speaking with you on my behalf or...— BONY (@JonnyBones) April 23, 2021
There’s a few things worth pointing out with White’s statements, and here’s a breakdown of various points and claims:
- On their last public contract dispute, White used the same exact strategy. He claimed Jones was asking for “Deontay Wilder” type of money, and called it an “obscene amount,” only for Jones to call him a liar and dare him to release the text messages.
- This is simply another attempt to make Jones seem “unreasonable” and to further push the idea that Jones — and anyone else negotiating for more money — is just scared and doesn’t really want to fight. “When Jon’s ready, he’ll let us know” is also just another way to make it about Jones’ character, instead of money.
- And is it really “obscene” and unreasonable for Jones to ask for Wilder-level money? Well, we already broke that down in detail here, showing the vastly different business models of UFC to boxing promotions. Even if Jones says he’s not demanding that kind of money, it’s worth pointing out that he’s actually a bigger PPV draw than Wilder, but earns multiples lower than his less accomplished boxing counterpart.
- White’s line of “these guys all share in the pay-per-view,” makes it sound so fair and reasonable, but in reality, champions who are lucky enough to get PPV points (not all of them do) only get a tiny share of that revenue. For years, the standard was for the fighter to get just around $1 per PPV starting at 200,000 buys, $2 for every buy over 400,000, and $2.50 a PPV for every buy over 600,000. These tiers and price per buy can vary slightly, and the rare big stars could get something like $2, $3.5 and $5 instead. This would be bigger than the less popular stars, but still dwarfed by the lion’s share of the revenue that UFC and Endeavor takes.
- Bloody Elbow’s business writer John S. Nash also made this comparison: “If Jones was a boxer, instead of getting a few bucks per PPV buy, it’s very likely he’d get a guaranteed purse even larger than the millions his contract already guarantees each fight. Instead, he would be paid based on a minimum the promoter thought he could generate for the bout, with Jones, the boxer, getting a large chunk of that. The headliners could also expect to get a 70% split or more from the net revenue it does that’s above what they originally projected.”
- White saying “that’s how you run a business and you don’t go broke,” implies that they take a lot of risk putting on these shows. He also previously claimed that “I am the guy that assumes all the risk,” when fighters try to negotiate. This is very very far from the truth.
- UFC takes almost zero risk with their events. Even ignoring all the sponsors, international TV deals, PPV buys and ticket sales, the UFC’s contracted revenues from ESPN alone is already more than their total annual expenses. If they simply reach their event quota, they’re guaranteed to be profitable, regardless of how good or bad the PPVs sell, and even before all the several other sources of revenue is counted.
White boasted about breaking every single monetary record the UFC had in 2020, but every time a fighter asks for better pay, he suddenly claims that their business is at risk. This also comes right after Ari Emanuel pulled the curtain and debunked White’s past attempts to pretend they were spending and risking so much in Abu Dhabi.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by White’s comments since he is a promoter, and it’s the promoter’s job is to try to maximize profits from a fight. It just happens that the easiest way to accomplish that, is by paying his fighters as little as possible.