Jones and UFC President Dana White have been embroiled in a heated war of words for over a year in regards to how much Jones deserves to be paid to take on Ngannou. Recently, White suggested that the matchup is unlikely to happen due to Jones allegedly asking for a $30 million purse, while Jones denied the claim and questioned who it is that the UFC thinks they’re negotiating with. Shortly after this incident, Jones parted ways with his longtime management team First Round Management.
Speaking with ESPN, Cormier wasn’t sure what to make of any behind-the-scenes drama, but he does think that his former rival will eventually be fairly compensated should he sign on the dotted line to fight Ngannou.
“It will ultimately be up to Jones to decide whether or not he wants to fight this dude,” Cormier said. “Because the fight’s his, right? It’s gonna be a big number. But how big of a number does it need to be for Jones to step inside the octagon?
“Jon Jones deserves his money. The dude has done tremendous things in this sport. But is Jon Jones going to have a number so large that it’s unrealistic? That’s the question. Because I know that they’re going to pay him. … It’s almost like Jon Jones says, ‘Show me the money,’ right? ‘We’re gonna show Jon Jones the money.’ So it’s gonna be ultimately if he wants to fight.”
Cormier isn’t sure where the $30 million number comes from (previously, White had said that Jones was looking to be paid a similar wage to that of heavyweight boxer Deontay Wilder), but he imagines the number lies “somewhere in the middle” of what has been put out there in the public.
Given Jones’ status as the greatest light heavyweight in UFC history and the reverence currently surrounding Ngannou, Cormier believes the matchup is a guaranteed blockbuster, but he’s still not sure if it makes Jones worth as much as Conor McGregor, one of the biggest pay-per-view movers of all time.
“It does big numbers.” Cormier said. “I think [Jones] does deserve a large number. I don’t believe... if Conor McGregor is—and I don’t know what Conor makes—but I heard Conor makes, like, $15 million or something just to show up. And then he gets all the pay-per-view, right?
“If Conor makes 15 to show up, Jones shouldn’t make what Conor McGregor makes. If Conor McGregor makes something in that range, Jones shouldn’t make what Conor McGregor makes. It should be a tier beneath that. Does Jon Jones make what Khabib makes? If Khabib makes eight-to-10? Yes. But I don’t believe he should make what Conor McGregor makes. I do believe that Conor McGregor, there should be a difference in the pay scale because of what he has meant to the company. But in the eight-to-10 range? I think that works.
“I believe with 100 percent certainty, they would give him $10 million to show up and fight Francis Ngannou. I believe that. I do believe that. Fifteen-to-twenty, like Conor, I don’t believe that. But 10? I see it. And that’s him getting his money. Because he’s never made $10 million before to show. He said he makes five, right? So if he makes five, then you’re doubling what he makes to go and fight Francis.”
Another factor that Cormier is taking into consideration is Jones’ history of misbehavior outside of the cage that has led to some embarrassing moments for the UFC. Jones has twice seen the light heavyweight title taken out of his hands without actually losing it in the cage; first in April 2015, when his involvement in a hit-and-run led to the UFC stripping him of his belt, and again in September 2017 when a failed drug test caused the result of a title fight win over then-champion Cormier to be overturned (the title change is not officially recognized).
Could the same thing happen if Jones goes after Ngannou’s heavyweight belt?
“Here’s the problem—this is so hard, because of our history, it always comes off like I’m trying to doubt and bad mouth this guy when I’m not—here’s the issue with Jones, is you’re never certain what’s gonna come after and therein lies the problem,” Cormier said. “What if something happens after? This is why it’s so hard. We fought on a number of occasions, and every time something happened after. What if something happens after? Now you’ve got a vacant heavyweight championship and you pay this guy all this money. That’s the problem.
“And it’s hard for me to say that because of our history. But it’s like, UFC 214, him and I, he beat me. Take your belt, take your money, go home. But instead, there’s an issue. Now what? You’re just gonna put the belt back on Francis.”
In the short term, Cormier wonders if Jones is better off letting the UFC proceed with a rematch between Ngannou and Derrick Lewis. Lewis defeated Ngannou by unanimous decision in a forgettable fight at UFC 226.
Cormier broke out some MMA math to explain why Jones could possibly benefit from Lewis beating Ngannou again.
“Listen, if you’re smart—and I want to see the fight too—but if I’m smart, if I’m Jones, and like I said weeks ago, he’s not afraid of Francis,” Cormier said. “But if I’m smart, and I’m Jones, do you see what plays out between those two? Because Jones beat me twice, I beat Derrick. Like, ‘Maybe Lewis beats this dude again and I go beat Derrick and become the heavyweight champ of the world.’”