Simply over one week in the past, Forbes launched its checklist of the 100 highest-paid athletes on the earth. It included boxers like Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury, stars from the NBA, NFL and MLB, golfers, soccer stars and tennis gamers. Just one blended martial artists made the checklist: Conor McGregor.

Jon Jones, the present UFC gentle heavyweight champion and prime pound-for-pound fighter on the earth in response to the UFC rankings, was nowhere to be discovered. He didn’t make the lower, and probably, he isn’t even the highest-paid athlete in his family. His brother Chandler Jones, a defensive finish for the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals, made $16.5 million final yr.

Now, there are numerous the reason why Jones could not make a fortune in endorsement cash the best way a few of the athletes on the checklist do—McGregor, as an example, made $16 million alone from endorsements—however relating to his athletic efficiency and compensation, effectively, that’s a perform of the UFC’s unimaginable negotiation leverage. In keeping with court docket filings associated to an ongoing antitrust lawsuit, the share of UFC income going to its fighters is simply 20%, a far cry from the close to 50% paid by the foremost U.S. sports activities leagues.

In an try to problem himself and improve his earnings, Jones lately made information by voicing an curiosity in shifting as much as heavyweight to face the terrifying contender Francis Ngannou. However as shortly as curiosity in that bout exploded, a lot hope was doused when Jones tweeted that the UFC signaled no real interest in growing his pay for the match. Then it was extinguished utterly on Thursday when White, talking to ESPN, stated the thought was a non-starter.

“He’s by no means needed to maneuver to heavyweight earlier than and for the amount of cash he’s asking for, it’s not going to occur,” he stated. “He couldn’t be asking for a extra absurd amount of cash at a worse time.”

On Friday, White detailed his stance additional, saying that Jones “desires what Deontay Wilder was paid” in his most up-to-date match, a determine that reportedly totaled round $30 million.

I’m not going to faux that working a live-event enterprise in 2020 is straightforward however I do know that pouring chilly water on maybe essentially the most thrilling fight-booking proposal within the pipeline is knee-jerk and misguided. The struggle promotion that has lengthy prided itself on making “the fights individuals need to see” might most likely use an asterisk or three after that slogan, as a result of it hardly ever appears to be fairly so easy.

The fly within the soup this time round is oh, simply tens of tens of millions of {dollars}, together with two wildly completely different accounts of the identical dialog. Whereas White is adamant Jones is asking for megabucks, Jones has been equally steadfast that talks by no means even reached a degree the place particular numbers have been mentioned, and that he solely sought a increase to tackle the larger danger at heavyweight. Which, you already know, appears completely affordable.

Additionally completely affordable as a place to begin? $30 million to struggle Ngannou. Wilder made that a lot to face Fury in a struggle that drew about 1.2 million pay-per-view buys. Is it unreasonable to imagine that Jones vs. Ngannou might pull in that sort of quantity? I don’t suppose so. With a promotional push, UFC 244’s “BMF” match as an example, drew over 900,000 buys, and that’s with out that includes a former champion within the headliner. Jones, in the meantime, is maybe the best fighter of all time whereas Ngannou boasts a spotlight reel that almost all promoters would die for. For those who can’t flip these two into field workplace gold, you’re asleep on the wheel.

Nonetheless, even when the UFC received’t pay out that sort of wild quantity, there needs to be some negotiating midpoint to make this struggle occur. If Jones is prepared to maneuver to heavyweight, the place he can be preventing bigger opponents in the one division that captivates informal followers by sheer presence, a increase sounds logical.

White throwing out the phrase “absurd” on Jones’ contract calls for when he’s actually constructing a “Combat Island”—a non-public island designed with full infrastructure to accommodate fights, and solely fights, is sort of audacious, no? I imply, I completely get that one among them is designed to profit the enterprise and the opposite is to profit a person, however they’re in the end after the identical factor: cash. White doesn’t want a Combat Island any greater than Jones wants an eight-figure paycheck, however the one motive one is getting what he desires whereas the opposite can’t is as a result of the bossman guards the checkbook from fighters with the ferocity of a Cerebrus.

By no means thoughts that it’s the labor of superstars like Jones that makes the cash that makes Combat Island potential. That’s simply logic that have to be deserted whenever you’re coping with the promoter-athlete relationship.

Simply know that when you as a fan have the UFC’s again on this one, you’re chopping off your nostril to spite your face. That if this struggle doesn’t occur, it’s not on Jones. He’s the one risking his physique, his mind, his life, and for what? The person that even White considers MMA’s G.O.A.T. can’t even discover a place among the many world’s prime 100 highest-paid athletes. Take into consideration that for a second. The perfect fighter on the earth can’t make the highest 100! That’s absurd! Everyone knows the UFC has the cash in its coffers, however that’s the place it’s going to remain. In spite of everything, you by no means know whenever you’re going to need to construct one other island.



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