Jon Jones Moving to Heavyweight
There’s a new mythical fighter in town; his name is heavyweight Jon Jones.
Come February 2023, consensus light-heavyweight (and perhaps even MMA) G.O.A.T, Jon Jones, will have been inactive in the sport for a full 3 years.
It’s not a retirement, and it’s never been made official either, but rumours float of a move to heavyweight for a shot at the biggest prize in mixed martial arts. Is it true? I don’t think it is, and here’s why.
Jon Jones versus Thiago Santos – A Noticeable Decline
This was the first (and only) time an opponent stole a scorecard from Jones. Along with the war with Gustafsson years prior, this was the second time Jones looked human in the octagon. Thiago was aggressive, and didn’t allow Jones to find comfort, nor did he let himself get cordoned against the cageside. It was a split decision victory for Jones, but the win wasn’t without its caveats.
Santos tore three of the four main ligaments inside his knee in the first round whilst throwing a kick. He also tore his meniscus. He fought one of the greatest of all times to a split decision, across 4 rounds with a knee that was essentially useless.
It begs the question. Would Thiago have won the fight if not for this devastating injury? Jones had run through two generations of light heavyweights, were they finally catching up to him?
Jon Jones versus Dominick Reyes – A Nasty Reminder
Little over 6 months later, Jones defended his strap against an undefeated newcomer Dominick Reyes. The considerable underdog, Reyes was expected to crumble under the pressure. Little did everybody know, he’d come the closest to defeating the champ.
Arguably losing the first three rounds, Jones showed no urgency. His gameplan was apparently to keep the fight at a laminar pace. When the judges scorecards read out a unanimous decision for Jones, the term ‘robbery’ was thrown around a lot, and more importantly the world saw how beatable Jones was on that night.
Vacating the Belt & Fleeing the Rematch
The Reyes decision was razor thin, and a rematch was inevitable… if Jones stayed at light heavyweight. This clearly wasn’t an option for Jones as he later vacated the throne, touting a move to heavyweight to win the championship. It was a legacy move, and on face value it made sense, Jones had been rumoured to move to heavyweight for many years.
The idea of Jones moving to heavyweight and winning the title was so romanticised, that many forgot how convenient it was that he forfeited the Reyes rematch in the process. The man who could have beaten Jones, now didn’t have an avenue to legitimise that claim, and it wasn’t controversial since Jones never acknowledged it.
Heavyweight Pay Disputes – A Farce
“The 32-year-old Jones had been eyeing a fight with heavyweight Francis Ngannou, but said the UFC did not want to pay him enough. UFC President Dana White said the fighter wanted “crazy” money, citing demands of $15m, $20m and $30m. “He can do whatever he wants to do.” – The Guardian
Almost 3 years later and here we are…
The UFC pay issue is a whole other can of worms. Jones being the best pound-for-pound fighter perhaps in the world, should be getting more than his supposed static $500,000 for fights. However, the tactic of demanding tens of $millions for a matchup against Francis Ngannou is a ploy. Let me elaborate.
He’s Not Coming Back – Speculation
Jon Jones vacates the light-heavyweight title, avoiding the Reyes rematch entirely. He reasons this by saying he’ll move up to heavyweight and challenge for the title. It’s evidenced by occasional media updates where we see an inflated Jones (who is presumably doesn’t have to cut weight anyway!).
Jones has a massive pay dispute with the UFC, and falls out of favour with the higher ups. Either he gets the big bucks or he leaves, simple as.
His ‘legacy’ stays sparkly clean. Jones no longer has the mandatory and very dangerous Reyes rematch which could spell his major decline. He also doesn’t have to fight at heavyweight since the UFC won’t pay. The next step is to retire entirely, and nobody would be any the wiser. He’s not coming back to fight at heavyweight, in fact he’s not coming back to fight at all.
Conclusion – Thoughts
I’d just like to conclude by saying that these are my opinions. This article could age like milk, and you’re more than welcome to drop a comment or send a DM if it does. This isn’t propaganda against Jones, in fact he’s one of my favourite fighters inside that octagon, I just don’t believe he’s coming back.