Jon Jones is sitting atop the pound-for-pound rankings on the official UFC website, so why isn’t he getting paid like it? It is no secret that Jones hasn’t been happy with his financial relationship with the UFC over the past several years. He is constantly asking to be paid more on social media despite being one of the greatest to have ever fought inside the UFC Octagon. His relationship with the UFC and president Dana White seems to be getting worse every day. This past week Jones even tweeted about being released from the organization before deleting the messages. So why does one of the greats have to beg to get paid accordingly? Does he really need more bargaining power than that of his stellar résumé?
Let’s look at Jones and his past. He is dominant inside the cage, but he has had some issues outside the cage. The UFC seems to want to hold outside-the-cage actions against fighters on a case-by-case basis. They are very inconsistent in who they punish and for what. Let’s say that all of Jones’ indiscretions outside the cage such as drug use and car accidents are not relevant in this case. He has also failed drug tests, and those could be used against him in terms of fight legacy. Either way, he is the best light heavyweight to have ever graced the Octagon. He is still in his prime and is now looking to take his talents to a heavier weight class and take on the king. That alone should get the man paid. So why the friction?
In a series of tweets, Jones asks the UFC to pay him like some of the top fighters. He said, “Is the fight worth Diante Wilder money? Do I need a last name like McGregor to make at least half that? Am I really the bad guy or is there a bigger issue here?”
Jones is insinuating that McGregor can get paid the big bucks, so why can’t he? He is right, to a point. McGregor is getting paid huge and doesn’t seem to have nearly as impressive a résumé as Jones does. The thing that McGregor does have though is notability. His fame transcends the sport. He is a full-blown celebrity at this point, so much so that non-MMA fans know who he is. Sadly, that is something that the UFC takes into account when looking at fighters and promoting them. McGregor brings in fans from outside the normal fight fan. When McGregor fights, people tune in who don’t normally buy PPVs. This raises his stock. White seems to only care about the bottom line and what brings in the most money.
The title fight between Francis Ngannou and Jon Jones will be a monster fight, but maybe not to non-superfans of the sport. At this point, it might even be Ngannou who is the bigger draw. Ngannou has been a highlight reel lately and has made a name for himself as such. Jones making this move is big, but him facing Ngannou is even bigger. Both of these men should be paid accordingly. One could argue that this fight is bigger in terms of fighting and legitimacy than the Dustin Poirier vs. McGregor rematch, which will most likely earn the most money this year and headline the biggest card of the summer.
The pay scale and requirements of pay should reflect skill, not notoriety. However, money talks, and now with fans coming back into attendance, butts in the seats means money in the pockets. Jones vs. Ngannou will be a big one, but Jones throwing fits on social media may not be doing the trick. He needs to find a way to transcend the sport and become more of a household name. Then, he can have more to bargain with. Also, a win over Ngannou and the heavyweight belt around his waist is a great way to stack the cards in his favor as well.