White has watched one of his most lucrative stars — who became the UFC's youngest ever champion back in 2011, and remains a disqualification away from being undefeated — sit on the sidelines for big chunks of time in the last couple of years. Jones has run afoul with the law on several occasions, most notably in a 2015 hit-and-run incident in Albuquerque, in which he fled the scene after hitting a pregnant woman. That incident, originally a felony charge that was reduced down to a misdemeanor, got Jones a year-and-a-half probation and a one-year suspension.
It also cost him his title. He was stripped of his belt in the wake of the incident.
And after coming back from that as a self-proclaimed reformed man at UFC 197 in April, Jones was removed from his UFC 200 main event fight with Daniel Cormier after it was discovered he'd failed an USADA-administered out-of-competition drug test. It was announced on Monday that Jones was suspended by USADA for one year, retroactive to the July date he was supposed to have fought Cormier.
What does White think of Jones these days? The UFC president appeared on The Dan LeBatard Show on Tuesday, and said he sees a man with all the potential in the world doing harm to himself.
"Yeah, he's definitely one of the guy's who could have gone down as one of the greatest ever," White told LeBatard. "If you look at all the time he's been out, he probably would have defended the title a few times. He might be fighting at heavyweight right now, who knows, but, hey man...when you do what this guy has done, you've got to pay the price.
"We've lost a lot of money, left a lot of money on the table and obviously his legacy is...I'll tell you this, too...in the history of combat sports, nobody's ever taken this much time off and come back and looked like they did when they were younger. Even [Muhammad] Ali. So it's going to be interesting."
Asked him much money Jones has squandered through his misdeeds, White was hesitant to say. But if he had stayed on the trajectory he was on before getting in trouble, he estimated it was significant.
"It's got to be...who knows," he said. "I mean, if he moved up to heavyweight and fought for the heavyweight championship, it could have been massive. It could be anywhere from $15-20 million."
Of all the big fights that the UFC couldn't put together — such as superfights with Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre, and a bout between Fedor Emelianenko and Brock Lesnar — White said not seeing Jones fight for the heavyweight title was this most disappointing.
"I think so, yeah," he said. "I think because everybody looks at Jon Jones as the guy who was probably the best ever to do it. And the potential that he had. Who knows what fights we missed or what could have been because of all this madness."
White has made it clear over the years that he thinks Jones was on pace to become the best UFC fighter ever. Yet when asked who held that distinction with Jones out, he pointed to his Brazilian star of many years.
"It's tough to not give that to Anderson Silva," he said. "Anderson Silva was doing things at the time that other people couldn't do. He was so dominant and made it look so easy. There was a point in time when he made that 185-pound division look weak."