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UFC's Francis Ngannou vs. Jon Jones megafight could be in jeopardy

April 6

The most highly anticipated heavyweight fight in recent UFC history appears to have hit a major roadblock.

When Francis Ngannou defeated Stipe Miocic in stunning fashion on March 27, claiming the UFC heavyweight belt in the process, attention immediately turned to the possibility of a megafight between Ngannou and arguably the greatest fighter of all time, Jon Jones.

Immediately after his triumph over Miocic at UFC 260, Ngannou addressed the prospect of taking on Jones, who has been a juggernaut of a light heavyweight dating to 2008. Jones has never been defeated in the light heavyweight division, save for a disqualification loss on Dec. 5, 2009, against Matt Hamill in a fight Jones was utterly dominating.

Jones officially announced that he planned to move up to heavyweight a few months after his last light heavyweight title defense against Dominick Reyes on Feb. 8, 2020, at UFC 247, his 14th official win in a light heavyweight title match.

It was announced before Miocic-Ngannou 2 that Jones would fight the winner for the heavyweight strap in his heavyweight debut. As such, when Ngannou won, he immediately turned his attention to Jones.

"For my opinion, Jon Jones is the greatest of all time for mixed martial arts. Him moving up is going to be a good thing. He's a challenge that I will take ... Very good thing on my résumé. But this time, he's going to be the challenger. I'm the champ. He's coming up looking for me. ... I will be here ready to fight in July or August."

Jones – predictably – had a close eye on UFC 260, summing up his thoughts on a fight against Ngannou in one succinct tweet.

That's where things officially got interesting.

UFC president Dana White, after the fight, added fuel to the fire in his media conference, jokingly cautioning Jones against moving up to heavyweight to challenge the new champion. 

He then said that if Jones wants the fight, all he has to do is pick up the phone, and they can get it done.

"Listen, it's one thing to go out and tweet and say you want it. ... [If] Jon Jones really wants the fight, Jon Jones knows he can get the fight. All he's gotta do is call and do it."

So what's the holdup?

Well, as Jones initially said, money.

The 33-year-old is expecting a sizable chunk of the proceeds from a title fight vs. Ngannou.

He hasn't backed down from that stance in recent days. Jones has repeatedly taken to Twitter to shed light on his position and how negotiations are going.

Jones' coach, Mike Winkeljohn, is backing up the former light heavyweight champion's demands.

"I don’t see why it wouldn’t be a $50 million fight. And the UFC still makes bank and is able to pay off a lot of the debt they have and go forward. I think the UFC needs a superstar like Jon Jones. I think Conor [McGregor] was the guy for a while, and he’s fallen off. But those big names is what makes the UFC money, ultimately."

Now, the staring contest apparently has the UFC looking at alternatives for Ngannou's next fight. The prevailing thought, according to ESPN's Ariel Helwani, is a rematch with Derrick Lewis.

Lewis and Ngannou faced off in 2018, with Lewis earning a unanimous decision in a snoozer of a fight at UFC 226.

For what it's worth, Lewis comes at a much cheaper price. 

Several UFC fighters, including light heavyweight Aleksandar Rakic, have come out in support of Jones' standing his ground to get a bigger slice of the pie.

Welterweight Michael Chiesa also weighed in on the impasse, saying he believes Jones should get his but disagreeing with the heavyweight-to-be's strategy of airing out the details on Twitter.

As for the champ, Ngannou is ready to take on whomever the UFC lines up.

Whether that means another battle with Miocic to round out the trilogy ⁠— Miocic beat Ngannou by decision at UFC 220 in 2018 ⁠— a rematch with Lewis or a megafight with Jones, Ngannou will be waiting.

But if he has his preference, it will be Jones.

For now, the MMA world is in wait-and-see mode as to whether Jones and White can get on the same page financially.

If they can, combat sports could be set up for the biggest blockbuster event in UFC history in the coming months.

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