Daniel Cormier believes Jon Jones is serious about vacating the light heavyweight title
It’s been a busy few weeks for Jon Jones. First, UFC light heavyweight champion was suddenly thrust into a potential superfight with Francis Ngannou. Negotiations didn’t get very far though as Jones said the UFC was not offering any increase in pay for moving up to light heavyweight, meaning he would be perfectly fine with defending his own light heavyweight title instead. That’s when things got wild.
UFC President Dana White came out and essentially blamed the failed negotiations entirely on Jon Jones, saying he was asking for “Deontay Wilder money.” This, in turn, infuriated Jones who did not like having his reputation assaulted and requested a release from the UFC. Dana held firm, saying Jones didn’t deserve $30 million (a number Jones says he never asked for) and things culminated with Jon Jones saying he was vacating his light heavyweight title. It was a shocking development but one that Jones’ biggest rival, Daniel Cormier, believes he’s probably serious about.
“I believe that he is more serious about walking away because in all those times that he was suspended and hurt and all that other stuff – gone – he kinda learned to live without that belt,” Cormier said on ESPN on Monday. “For a long time he held the belt that when he lost the belt the first time, he probably thought his world was ending. But then he was gone for two years and life probably didn’t seem all that different. So he’s probably looking at life right now and understanding that, ‘if I walk away from this belt, is my life really gonna change all that much?’ I think that gives him comfort, and being able to say the things that he’s saying. So I think to a degree he does believe, I do believe, that he’s serious.”
If Jones does walk away, it would be a blow to the UFC as Jones is one of the biggest stars in the organization. However, with the ESPN deal and the guaranteed money that comes from that deal, the UFC is less reliant on their pay-per-view model and thus can potentially more easily let Jones walk away from fighting. Then again, this could all just be public posturing from both sides, or at least, that’s what Cormier believes is going on.
“You’ve got egos, right? Both of these guys have big egos,” Cormier said. “Not many people stand up to Dana White in this way and Jon Jones feels as though he’s so valuable that Dana White shouldn’t stand up to him in that way. I feel like anytime – it’s more public than normal, but if you think negotiations in football, baseball, basketball don’t resemble this, ‘Well I’m walking away,’ and then they come back to the table, ‘Well I’m walking away,’ and then they come back to the table, you’re insane. It happens at every level in every single sport, just not as publicly. It’s hidden behind a whole bunch of beautiful words.”
Public or private, these negotiations are seemingly not going to get better though as Dana White appears to be holding fast to his position, and Cormier says that’s in part because of how things have gone thus far. Cormier used his own circumstances as an example to how the UFC does business and argued that Jones’ approach to the negotiations is probably to blame for things turning so acrimonious.
“I won the belt in 2015. I got me a good contract and I told Dana and Lorenzo, ‘I don’t plan on losing the belt but if I do, at least make my pay 300 grand,’” Cormier said. “Remember when former champions used to make $300,000 and it was a pretty good contract? That’s my contract today! $300,000 as the challenger, because luckily for me, I never lost that belt, so I had the same contract making all that money from 2015 to 2019. So when it’s time for me to go and negotiate my fight purse for Stipe Miocic, you think today I want to make $300,000 to fight? No. Do you think I’m gonna make $300,000 to fight? No. I’m gonna talk to them and we’ve had beginning conversations, and they’re going to take care of you, it’s just a matter of how you approach the conversation. . .
“I am almost 100 percent certain that the UFC would pay a $7-8 million base for him to go fight Francis, and if he’s such a big star and it’s going to do so well, then maybe the pay-per-view will get you to the number that you want it to be. If it has as much intrigue as people are saying it does. And then that’s on the fans. It’s on the fans who are supporting you in this fight to go out and purchase the fight and when they do, now you make all the money that you need. That’s how I feel.”
At this point, it should be noted that the UFC was purchased for $4 billion in 2016 and Dana White proclaimed 2019 to be the best year in the company’s history. However, the advent of coronavirus, and the lost revenue from live gates, is also a potential factor in the UFC’s willingness to pay more money, even to their biggest stars. Regardless, a cold war appears to be brewing, and though Cormier seems to be siding with his employer, he does at least give credit to Jon Jones for fighting what he believes in.
“I don’t think he’s wrong,” Cormier concluded. “The guy really understands his value and he’s going to stick to his guns, good for you.”