Yesterday, a report from the latest antitrust document dump came out via Steven Marrocco detailing conversations Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta had about contract negotiations between the UFC and Jon Jones. The conversations, conducted via text message back in 2014, would center around Jones’ refusal to settle for the numbers they were giving him for a potential rematch with Alexander Gustafsson. The hold-up, according to Dana White, came in the form of Daniel Cormier, as that was who Jones really wanted to fight next.
“What’s up with Jones? Did he straighten up or is he still being a scumbag?” White texted then-UFC Chairman Lorenzo Fertitta who replied back, “Still a douche, but we’re inching closer. Haven’t moved on money, but sent the letter with an ultimatum.”
“Awesome,” White responded. “F*** that punk, Lorenzo. He needs to know we don’t need him, or he will f*** us over more than he already does.”
UFC played hardball with Jon Jones
White and Fertitta were playing hardball with the champ, even before the hit and run and other various scandals began cropping up. He had famously said ‘No’ to a last minute replacement fight with Chael Sonnen when his original opponent, Dan Henderson, suffered an injury. It would be the first time in history the UFC cancelled an event. But the bulk of Jones’ issues would come later down the road, well after these text messages were exchanged.
At the time, the only real mark on Jon Jones’ UFC report card came in the form of an accident he had in his Bentley after a night of partying in NY. He struck a utility pole and was ultimately ordered to pay a $1000 fine and had his license suspended for six months. He had two female passengers at the time, but neither was injured seriously.
Conversely, Jon Jones became the first UFC athlete signed to a Nike deal. He also landed a Gatorade sponsorship right before he fought and beat Gustafsson in what many consider to be one of the greatest light heavyweight bouts of all time. He hadn’t, up to this point, given the UFC much reason to take such an acrimonious stance. Of course Jones wasn’t privy at the time to these exchanges, but I have to wonder if he’s holding a big bag of regret right now, because the bags he’s getting from the UFC and the ones Francis Ngannou is getting are likely worlds apart.
All you had to do was hold out a little longer
When the antitrust suit started bearing the fruit of discovery, document dumps provided a wealth of contract information. We were able to determine, via the diligent work of John Nash, that the infamous sunset clauses were finally introduced to contracts in 2017. Jon Jones had one in his last contract before the one he signed in March of 2023 and by Nash’s calculations, theoretically should have been eligible for free agency in the first few months of 2024, or right around now.
The fact that Francis backed him up when he was campaigning for a fight with the Cameroonian is not lost on me. When Dana White told media that Jones was asking for “Deontay Wilder money” or a purse of around $30M, fans took him at his word and expressed disappointment that Jones was being the fly in the ointment to a proposed fight with Ngannou. He even referred to that asking price as “obscene” and told Aaron Bronsteter that Jones “wasn’t going to make that absurd amount of money in these times.”
Jones would release a stream of tweets denying that asking price, but this particular one stood out to me:
“You already let me down a bit by shutting down this Francis Mega fight, don’t add salt to the wound by telling the fans something that’s not the truth.”
That path, the one where UFC throws fighters under the bus to promote their own agenda has been a tried and true one for the entire time the Fertittas and White were at the helm. Fallouts with Frank and Ken Shamrock, Tito Ortiz and Randy Couture had all come before this but fighters looking to make it onto the big stage find scenarios like those easy to ignore or forget. Did Jones forget that when he declined to fight Chael Sonnen at UFC 151, the UFC actually put out a press release titled “Champ Jones refuses new opponent” and Dana gave an interview citing him and Team Jackson (wasn’t Jackson-Wink yet) as the reason “UFC 151 was murdered”?
All you had to do was wait. We could’ve seen Jon Jones versus Francis Ngannou in a bout that would undoubtedly sell out a stadium, would crush PPV numbers and would’ve netted you a lot better than the scraps the UFC has provided in your newest contract, the one that will still be there when your career is long over. Win or lose, the value of your name would’ve have ensured a rematch and any number of opportunities. All you had to do was wait.
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