'Bones out': What next for UFC pound-for-pound king Jon Jones after bitter contract spat with Dana White?
Jon Jones has long held a contentious relationship with UFC brass but it appears to have reached breaking point as the UFC's 205lb champion announced that he was relinquishing his title following a contract dispute.
Once again it seems like Jon 'Bones' Jones' most challenging fights take place outside of the cage. The longtime UFC light heavyweight champion has had it mostly his own way since becoming the youngest UFC champion in history in 2011, with only USADA able to seize the title from his grasp during the years which followed.
As Jones' unbeaten run extended, so did the calls for him to face more robust challenges in the heavyweight division. If a man has no equal where he is, put him where he might find one.Also on rt.com UFC champ Jon Jones hints at boxing switch as Dana White accuses him of 'tarnishing his own reputation' in bitter pay row
Jones often teased moving up in weight on numerous occasions, even being linked with fights with the likes of Brock Lesnar and Stipe Miocic. These challenges never materialized. Instead Jones faced a succession of 205lb contenders, defeating them all.
But as Jones was adding further layers to his championship legacy, another fighter was just beginning his.
Francis Ngannou has been a whirlwind of destruction since making his UFC debut a little over four years ago, stopping a conveyor belt of heavyweight talent in brutally quick fashion along the way. The Cameroonian's most recent win, a 20-second shellacking of Jairzinho Rozenstruik last month, prompted talk of what it might look like if the imperious Jones was to challenge him.
And for once, Jones was open to the idea - even if the UFC were not quite so keen.
#ESPN Reyes vs Jan For the UFC light heavyweight championship of the world. As of right now, I got nothing to really gain fighting either of them. Let me know if you guys want to set up a day in 2021 for that Izzy fight. Hopefully you guys will be willing to pay by then.— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) May 31, 2020
To the light heavyweight title Veni, vidi, vici— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) May 31, 2020
I hurt myself every time I walk out there and take a punch to the head and Not feel my pay is worth it anymore. https://t.co/X3BjGA9d02— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) May 31, 2020
UFC president Dana White rubbished Jones' contract demands for a hypothetical fight with Ngannou, saying that his fighter was asking for "Deontay Wilder money" - a neat way of framing that even his sport's most historically dominant fighter can't rival boxing's paychecks.
This came to a head late on Sunday when Jones issued a stunning sequence of tweets in which he said he was relinquishing his world title and stepping away from the UFC, adding that none of the impending light heavyweight threats are fights which excite him.
So, what happens now?
Jones remains under contract with the UFC so even if he was to 'retire', his contractual rights would still be held by his former employers - meaning that a run in Bellator (or any other worldwide MMA promotion) is out of the question without the UFC's express permission.
Guest appearances in professional wrestling are also unlikely due to terms within his contract which would say that forays into such arenas must also come with UFC authorization. The same goes for boxing, though if Jones is feeling litigious he would likely have a case that the UFC was restricting his career in a sport separate to their own.
It is worth noting that Jones didn't close the door on competing in the UFC again, noting in one tweet that he would be interesting in fighting Israel Adesanya in 2021, so long as the bottom line is right.Also on rt.com 'Is this sh*t even about George Floyd anymore?': Enraged UFC champ Jon Jones takes on protest vandals (VIDEO)
What this really amounts to is a high-stakes staring contest. Jones is looking for money, the UFC are unwilling to pay it for fear of breaking the pay structure they have already massaged to accommodate Conor McGregor.
Despite the posturing it is likely that Jones will fight again in the UFC, perhaps even this year - but it will be telling to see which of the parties blinks first.