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Jon Jones on Conor McGregor: ‘Of course he's not retiring'

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

LAS VEGAS -- From the beginning, Jon Jones had a feeling the dispute between the UFC and featherweight champion Conor McGregor was about more than retirement. He proved to be right.

"Of course he's not retiring," Jones said of McGregor on Thursday. "No way.

"God gave us these gifts. We've got to use these things. So, yeah, that was easy. I knew he wasn't retiring."

The rift between McGregor and the UFC has raged on throughout UFC 197 fight week. Two days after the UFC pulled McGregor out of UFC 200 for refusing to fly from Iceland to the United States to promote his rematch against Nate Diaz, McGregor responded by posting a lengthy statement on Facebook in which he rescinded his retirement tweet and expressed a desire to reach a compromise with the UFC.

Rather than embark on a three-city media tour, McGregor offered to attend a scheduled press conference next week in New York, then return to Iceland to resume his training camp for Diaz. McGregor cited the heavy promotional burden he has carried for the UFC over the last several years as reason for the request.

Jones has done his own fair share of media tours for big fights, so he can empathize with McGregor's position. However he also sees obligations like what UFC is asking of McGregor as a means to an otherwise worthwhile end.

"They're grueling," Jones said. "They're really grueling. And it can be distracting at times. You're talking about your fight. Your opponent is listening to your interviews, understanding your psychology. A lot of things, you want to try to keep yourself mysterious, because the more interviews you do, you're giving out your psychology. You're being asked a lot of the same questions. Your workout schedule is altered. Your eating patterns become altered. You feel sidetracked from why you're actually there.

"At the end of the day, we're doing a physical competition, and you feel like you're more becoming a star. You know what I'm saying? You're doing all this stuff that has really nothing to do with the actual fight. It can be distracting. But at the same time, it's part of what we do, just like the weight cut. You've got to just embrace it all."

Ultimately, Jones echoed McGregor's past sentiments that it would be nice for the UFC to pay its athletes to do such media tours, but added that he feels the organization sort of does that already.

"We are paid for our time, especially us high-level fighters. We make millions of dollars, and part of that is the actual performance, but getting viewers to tune in is also a big part of the game," Jones said.

"[McGregor] does a tremendous amount of media. Him and Ronda Rousey, they do a lot of media. So, I don't know how he's feeling. Maybe it's a little too much. At the same time, we get paid millions and millions of dollars to show up. Today, I have media for an hour, then I have maybe another hour later. I mean, when you think about how much you're working compared to how much you're getting paid, we have a great job. So, you know, there's pros and cons, and I understand his feelings, but at the same time, we do have a great job that pays us really well."

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