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Jon Jones asks for release from UFC - negotiation ploy or a legitimate threat?

UFC 200 New York Press Event
UFC 200 New York Press Event
ANALYST
Modified 30 Mar 2021
Feature

After Francis Ngannou knocked out Stipe Miocic to win the UFC heavyweight championship, the MMA world was abuzz with the possibility of a dream bout between the new champ and the alleged MMA GOAT, Jon Jones.

Jon Jones immediately tweeted after the fight.

UFC President Dana White however had other ideas, suggesting at the post-fight press conference that Jon Jones didn’t want the fight and that Derrick Lewis was next for Francis.

This statement made Jones furious as he tweeted his angry response.

UFC fans hoped that the tension would all ease and that the UFC would eventually negotiate with Jones to make the biggest fight in MMA. This did not happen. Instead, ‘Bones’ Jones has become more frustrated and asked for his UFC release in a series of now-deleted tweets.

Jon Jones frustration boiled over in this series of tweets
Jon Jones frustration boiled over in this series of tweets

How did we get here? And is this threat real or just another negotiating ploy from the former UFC light heavyweight champion?

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A dream beginning to his UFC career

UFC 145: Jones v Evans
UFC 145: Jones v Evans

Jonathon Dwight Jones debuted in the UFC on August 9th, 2008 at UFC 87 against Andre Gusmao. He won that fight by unanimous decision. ‘Bones’ went on to defeat everyone in front of him in the light heavyweight division. The only blemish was a DQ defeat to Matt Hamill due to 12-6 elbows in a fight he was absolutely dominating.

Jones went on to become the youngest fighter to win a UFC title at just 23 years old. He won the UFC light heavyweight championship against ‘Shogun’ Rua at UFC 128. Jones completely destroyed the Brazilian, winning by TKO in the third round.

The morning of the title fight, Jon Jones chased down a robber who had stolen a woman’s GPS device from her car. The UFC future looked bright for Jon Jones.

Trouble begins

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Interim UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones Press Conference
Interim UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones Press Conference

After beating fierce rival Daniel Cormier at UFC 182 in January 2015, things started to turn sour for Jon Jones and the UFC.

On April 27th, Jones was involved in a hit and run where his car crashed into a pregnant woman’s vehicle. The UFC fighter ran from the scene, only to return to grab some money and drug paraphernalia.

The UFC stripped Jones of the light heavyweight belt on April 28th, and he was indefinitely suspended by the promotion.

Drug failures

UFC 214: Weigh-ins
UFC 214: Weigh-ins

On January 6, 2015 it was announced that Jones failed a drug test before UFC 182. He tested positive for cocaine before his bout with DC.

Before his much-anticipated rematch with Daniel Cormier at UFC 200, Jones tested positive for two banned substances which led to him being pulled from the fight and banned for one year. This ruined the UFC’s biggest event of the year, further damaging their relationship.

After defeating Cormier at 214, ‘Bones’ once again tested positive for illegal drugs. He denied taking any steroids and claimed his supplements must have been tainted. He was suspended again for 15 months by USADA.

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Move to Heavyweight

UFC 239 Jones v Santos
UFC 239 Jones v Santos

Jones returned from his drug suspension to beat Alexander Gustafson, Anthony Smith, Thiago Santos, and squeaked by Dominick Reyes at UFC 247.

The rocky relationship between Jones and the UFC continued with disagreements over pay. In May 2020, after another public argument with Dana White over money, Jon Jones vacated the UFC light heavyweight championship.

He announced he was moving to heavyweight, targeting a dream matchup with Francis Ngannou.

Current situation

So, Jon Jones's relationship with the UFC is very complicated. Both sides have reasons to be unhappy with each other. However, with this mega-fight on the table, it would make sense for both sides to come to an agreement.

It would be easy to say that Jones is merely publicly negotiating for a bigger payday and that he will eventually settle for less. The issue is that it’s been over a year since Jones last fought and he clearly is looking for a better contract and respect from the UFC.

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It seems highly unlikely that the UFC would ever let Jones leave the promotion. That said, if Dana White continues to play hardball, Jones just may try to force his way out.

Let's go to the scorecards

Jones definitely has the court of public opinion (the fans) in his favor. MMA fans want to see the super fight between Jones and Ngannou, so Jones has the upper hand at present.

First Round: 10/9 to Jon ‘Bones’ Jones.

Published 30 Mar 2021, 21:35 IST
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