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Dana White targeting Derrick Lewis for Francis Ngannou after claiming Jon Jones wants $30 million payday

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Dana White post-UFC 244
Dana White
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

The Francis Ngannou vs. Jon Jones ship has sailed for now, at least in the eyes of UFC President Dana White.

Speaking to The Ringer, White touched upon the ongoing negotiations for a highly-anticipated superfight between Ngannou, the UFC’s current heavyweight champion, and Jon Jones, the greatest light heavyweight fighter in the promotion’s history. White and Jones have been locked in public negotiations for over a year now over the possibility of Jones moving up to heavyweight and immediately fighting for the title. New life was breathed into the conversation when Ngannou beat Stipe Miocic to become champion at UFC 260.

White has openly questioned whether Jones actually wants to fight Ngannou, while Jones has made it clear that his reservations for signing on for the bout are strictly financial. Jones said that an offer in the “$8-10 million range” isn’t enough to fight Ngannou and Jones’ coach Mike Winkeljohn went as far as to say that Jones could be worth as much as $50 million in that scenario.

With top heavyweight contender Derrick Lewis waiting in the wings—and holding a past decision win over Ngannou—White isn’t worried about how long it will take to work out a deal with Jones.

“What we do is every Saturday night I put on fights and whoever wants to fight, we’ll make it and we’ll put ‘em in there,” White said. “We tried to work with Jon and we eventually have to move on. Because realistically, in all honesty, Derrick Lewis is the guy who deserves the fight. Derrick Lewis is a heavyweight, he beat Francis Ngannou, he’s looked good in his last couple of fights, he’s ranked in the top-three, I think. He deserves the fight, so that’s the fight that should happen, we’ll just roll and do what we do.

“When Jon’s ready, he’ll let us know.”

Jones has been one of the UFC’s most dominant fighters since debuting with the promotion in 2008 and has been a reliable, if unspectacular pay-per-view draw. He has been vocal about wanting to receive greater compensation, even hinting at a retirement in May of last year as protest.

He hasn’t fought since successfully defending the light heavyweight title (later vacated) against Dominick Reyes at UFC 247 last February and White isn’t surprised that Jones has stuck to his guns so far. It’s a scenario his team is used to by now.

“This happens a lot,” White said. “What happens a lot in this sport is these guys are under contract. They sign deals and then a fight will pop up and they’re like, ‘I don’t want to fight for that deal now. I want a new deal.’ Listen, you want everybody happy. You can’t make everybody happy but you want to make ‘em as happy as you possibly can. So we’ll try to figure something out and if we can we will and we get the deal done, and if we can’t we won’t and it’s up to him whether he wants to fight again.”

As for what the number is that Jones is looking for, White repeated a past claim that Jones is looking for similar numbers to what heavyweight boxer Deontay Wilder was paid to rematch Tyson Fury, a claim that Jones has vehemently refuted.

White acknowledged that Ngannou vs. Jones is the biggest matchup that can be made outside of “McGregor-anybody,” but doesn’t plan to break the bank for it. He believes the UFC’s current model of paying top stars their contracted purse and a percentage of the pay-per-view profits is still the best way to go about business.

“In his deal, he’s talking he wants $30 million guaranteed,” White said. “The way that this works is these guys all share in the pay-per-view, so you just said yourself you think that this is gonna be a big fight. I agree with you and think it’s gonna be a big fight, well he will share in the profits of the fight. That’s how it works. That’s how you run a business and you don’t go broke, that’s how that works.”