Now that the super fight that fans have wanted is no longer a possibility, they can look forward to the return of an MMA legend. Although it’s not the opponent fans wanted, many are eager for Jones’s return.
Heading into 2023, a match between the reigning UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou and UFC legend Jon Jones was heavily speculated. Although this was a dream fight for fans, both fighters’ issues with the UFC made it highly unlikely that it would be booked.
Jones’s last fight was in February 2020 at UFC 247 where he won via a controversial unanimous decision against Dominick Reyes. Months after the fight, Jones vacated the light heavyweight title, moved to the heavyweight class and has been inactive ever since.
The main reason for Jones’ inactivity was compensation. Ryan Harkness of SB Nation MMA reported that Jones and UFC owner Dana White could not settle on a price for a super fight.
White claimed Jones wanted $30 million, similar to boxer Deontay Wilder’s pay in his fight against Tyson Fury. Jones denied White’s statement.
In the same article, Harkness pointed out that boxing’s super fight of Fury vs. Wilder sold 800,000 pay-per-view (PPV) units and both of Jones’ fights against Daniel Cormier put up similar numbers. Despite Jones’s problems outside of the octagon, such as suspensions and arrests, it’s impossible to deny the money he’s helped the UFC make.
Then, on Jan. 14, the MMA world changed. Following UFC Vegas 67, White announced that Jones had been signed to an eight-fight contract. In that same press conference, White announced the release of Ngannou.
According to White, negotiations lasted for two years but ultimately ended because Ngannou wanted to “fight lesser opponents and make more money.”
On Tuesday’s episode of Ariel Helwani’s “The MMA Hour,” Ngannou opened up about the negotiations that led up to his release. For Ngannou, he felt he wasn’t getting any freedom.
“In that contract, I’m not an independent contractor. In that contract, I have no rights, I have no power. I hand over all the power to you guys, and I’ve seen in the past how you can utilize that power,” said Ngannou.
During the interview, Ngannou also revealed that he was negotiating the right for all fighters to have health insurance, in-ring sponsorships and an athlete advocate assigned to help every fighter.
“It’s very interesting how they pick what they talk about. They don’t talk about what the negotiation was about. They just talk about the money they would have gave me … It’s all their narrative,” said Ngannou about the UFC and White.
Since Ngannou is a free agent now, there is much speculation about what he’ll do next. Ngannou has always shared his interest in stepping into the boxing ring and facing the likes of Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua. Or maybe the Professional Fighters League (PFL) will make a push to secure him.
As for Jones, he is set to fight Ciryl Gane for the heavyweight championship at UFC 285 on March 4, 2023.