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Morning Report: Daniel Cormier weighs in on Jon Jones vs. Francis Ngannou negotiations

Daniel Cormier Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

For a few weeks now, the MMA world has been abuzz with talks of a potential superfight between UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and heavyweight destroyer of worlds, Francis Ngannou, and last week, Jones met with the UFC to begin preliminary negotiations for the superfight. The negotiations did not go well. Jones put the failure squarely on the shoulders of UFC officials who, he said, were unwilling to even consider paying him more money to move up a weight class.

But is that the whole story? Daniel Cormier isn’t so sure.

Speaking with Ariel Helwani on Monday, Cormier opined on the Jones-Ngannou negotiations, saying that he’d like full transparency on the situation before blaming the UFC for failing to make the fight.

“What was the number though?” Cormier asked. “Was the number realistic? Was the number insane?

“I remember a time when Jon Jones and I were gonna fight and he was like, ‘I got $10 million. Total. I got $10 million.’ That’s what he kept saying. If you have $10 million and you get half of that in one fight, I think that’s good if you made $5 million plus pay-per-views. . .

“No, man. People don’t get more to go up to heavyweight. I didn’t get more to go up to heavyweight. Well, I did. (Laughs). I was lying. I was just lying. I caught myself lying. I’m sorry. I did. I did get more.

“But let’s say Jon Jones’ base pay is $3 million. Say his base pay $5 million, then give him $7 million. That’s $2 million. But what was the number? When you’re talking transparency, tell the number. Tell the number that you threw out there. If you throw out the number - what do you think is legitimate for him to go up? $12 million? $20 million? What’s the number?”

Unfortunately, transparency is not the way the UFC does business. Only a portion of fighter pay is ever disclosed, and none of the pay from PPV ever is. For his last bout, his light heavyweight title defense against Dominick Reyes, Jones made a reported $500,000 purse, but likely made substantially more from PPV. So given that Jones is the only one talking publicly about the pay, and he’s not saying exact numbers, it’s hard to get a gauge on what the negotiations were like but Cormier seems to think the UFC probably was not lowballing Jones, especially when you take into consideration the other factors at play.

“If I’m the UFC, I make it public,” Cormier said. “If we’re sharing, I say, ‘Hey, this is what this dude asked for. That’s absurd. . . This is what he asked for and this is what he made last time.’ I would put his numbers out there, all that undisclosed pay, I’d make public and go, ‘Tell me how I’m being unrealistic.’ Think, number one, you’re gonna fight with no crowd now so the gate is gone and you’ve got to sell a PPV against a guy who is scary. But I was on a card with Stipe and Francis and for as scary as Francis was, it’s not like we did gangbusters numbers. And I think that was before the ESPN deal came in. That was just the normal PPV system. So it’s not like Francis is going to make your numbers skyrocket through the moon.”

Of course, the difference here is that Francis Ngannou is seen as the most dangerous possible opponent for the essentially unbeaten Jones. A PPV between the two may not get the same promotional push it would during normal times, but it would still likely be a huge event. But according to Cormier, everything still comes down to numbers and, the former double champ seems to believe Jones is misrepresenting the situation.

“If you asked for $20 million and you made $5 million last fight, that’s unrealistic,” Cormier said. “You’re painting it out to be something that’s not necessarily true, when the reality is, if you’re asking for $20 million, do you really want the fight? I have no idea (what he’s asking for), I’m just using $20 million as a baseline, for what would be a number? Because I’m almost certain the UFC would give him $7-8 million dollars. I don’t think for a second they wouldn’t. I think they would give him that, plus PPV.”

Unfortunately, we may never know the truth of the matter. Instead, it seems likely that Jones will carry on defending his light heavyweight title, most likely against Jan Blachowicz. And that, says DC, is not the outcome anyone wants.

“It feels like a let down, especially Blachowicz,” Cormier said. “I don’t want to disrespect Jan, but look man, when it comes to Jones, not many betting lines are close. You put him in there with Jan, it’ll be a big time - the separation will be massive.”


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FINAL THOUGHTS

I hope everyone had a good long weekend. We’re back and fights are with us (we think).

Thanks for reading and see y’all tomorrow.


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