After battles public and private with the promotion, Dana White framed Jones’ status as dependent on his desire to fight – not his willingness to take the money offered for the matchups he’s been linked to since announcing his move up to heavyweight.
“There’s fights available,” White told reporters at the post-UFC 262 press conference. “They’re here. I’m going to keep making fights every weekend, doing fights. If Jon Jones wants to fight, he can, if he doesn’t, he doesn’t have to. Nobody’s going to force Jon Jones to fight.
“He’s had a great run. He’s got an incredible legacy. I personally see him as the GOAT. Right now, you’ve got guys that are nipping at his heels like [Kamaru] Usman and some other guys out there. It’s up to him. He can fight this summer, or he can never fight again. That’s up to him.”
White had previously floated the idea of Jones facing Miocic, the most successful heavyweight champ in UFC history, as a consolation for apparently losing out on a title shot against current titleholder Francis Ngannou. Jones was expected to face the champ before a public spat over his financial demands prompted the UFC president to anoint Derek Lewis as the next challenger.
But with Jones holding out over his contract, White said Miocic could meet the winner of Ngannou vs. Lewis, which has not yet been officially booked.
Jones hasn’t indicated a lack of desire to fight in his public comments since his most recent spat with the UFC. Indeed, the winningest light heavyweight champ in the promotion’s history has been hard at work as he bulked up to the big-man division in advance of a title shot. Since his departure from his longtime management company and an apparent stalemate in negotiations, he’s expressed optimism that a deal would eventually be struck.
But he’s also remained steadfast that he’s deserving of a bump in pay for a fight of the magnitude of Ngannou. If the UFC doesn’t agree, however, the promotion can effectively extend his current contract indefinitely if he continues to turn down fight offers and hold out for a new deal.
White acknowledged Jones winning the heavyweight title would be like “[Tom] Brady going out and winning another Super Bowl with the Bucs. Obviously, going up to heavyweight, it would be tough to argue if he wins the title that he’s not the GOAT.”
That possibility still didn’t change Jones’ position with the UFC. In the end, White indicated the ex-champ can honor his current contract – or accept the legacy he’s built up to this point.
“Right here, right now, he could retire, and I still consider him the GOAT until somebody else accomplishes what he has,” White said.