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Morning Report: Mike Winkeljohn says Jon Jones is not interested in Stipe Miocic: ‘Jon wants the biggest challenge out there’

Jon Jones smiling at the UFC 200 Media Lunch
Jon Jones smiling at the UFC 200 Media Lunch
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Jon Jones’ coach says the former light heavyweight champion isn’t interested in fighting again unless it’s for the belt.

After vacating his light heavyweight title last year with the intention of moving up to heavyweight to capture a second belt, Jon Jones has been embroiled in a drawn out contract negotiation with the UFC. Though both Jones and UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou are interested in facing each other, the UFC is unwilling to pay Jones what he feels is equitable compensation and so, for much of the last year, Jones has been holding out. In the meantime, the division is moving on with and so recently, UFC President Dana White said that the UFC offered Jones a fight with former champion Stipe Miocic. But according to his coach Mike Winkeljohn, Jones wouldn’t be interested in something like that.

“It doesn’t really excite me,” Winkeljohn told Submission Radio. “I would assume – It has nothing to do with what excites me or not, I would think the same thing, from the outside looking in, I would think that wouldn’t excite Jon. I think Jon wants the big one, he wants to get the big one, he wants the big challenge. And right now Stipe is not there. Stipe is awesome, don’t get me wrong, but Jon wants the biggest challenge out there. That’s how Jon Jones thinks.

“That’s just me talking. For me, that doesn’t seem that exciting for Jon. It doesn’t make sense. Makes sense to go after the title, cause honestly, Jon is the best pound-for-pound of all time, so why would he have just a normal fight? Unless we felt we needed that to get used to our new body. I don’t think we’re gonna need that. I think Jon is already getting used to his new size. So, there’s not a necessity to take a step-up fight. Jon’s ready to go, he wants the challenge.”

Jones is one of the most decorated fighters in UFC history but he has had a history of disagreements with the promotion. In the past few years, Jones has repeatedly butted heads with White over fighter pay and White’s public negotiation tactics. Earlier this year, Jones even hired former Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer as a career advisor with the goal being to finally close the deal on a Jones-Ngannou fight. Thus far, Schaefer has yet to find the magic bullet to get the fight booked and White even said this past weekend that he is already writing off any notion that Jones fights again in 2020. But despite things not going well on the negotiation front, Winkeljohn still believes that the fight will get booked, eventually.

“I think so, I do. Both sides know what they’re doing. It’s to be expected, but it’s gonna happen,” Winkeljohn said. “Heavyweights can fight for a long time. Honestly, Jon could take three or four, four years off and still come back at heavyweight. It’s just the problem is, the sport continues to change and people are getting better every year. At first it was changing quite a bit. It’s kind of slowing down the upward climbing curve. So, you have to stay on top of the new techniques that are out there and stuff. But heavyweights are fighting until they’re older, so I don’t know. I think time’s actually on Jon’s side.”

Jones is only 34 years old so, in the abstract, time certainly is on his side. However, should Jones sit out for a while, it’s possible that the champion he returns to face could be very different from the one he has a built in story with. At UFC 265 on Saturday, Cyril Gane claimed the interim heavyweight title with a dominant performance over Derrick Lewis and it’s assumed that Gane will now challenge Ngannou next. But whether it’s Ngannou, or Gane, or even someone else, Winkeljohn says that Jones would be content facing whoever, so long as the belt is on the line.

“I guess that would be disappointing, there’s no doubt about it,” Winkeljohn said. “It doesn’t mean that Jon wouldn’t pick up and just take the new challenge. Like I said, Jon’s kinda been smacked around before, he always finds a way to win. So with that being said, it would be a shame. But at the same time, maybe not. Maybe that’s even a better challenge in some ways if that does play out.”


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