Dana White rejects Islam Makhachev as No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter after UFC 302, Jon Jones responds

Islam Makhachev vanquished another top contender with his submission win over Dustin Poirier at UFC 302, but it’s still not enough to be considered the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the sport.

That’s according to UFC CEO Dana White, who had nothing but glowing praise for his UFC lightweight champion after Makhachev racked up his 14th straight victory on Saturday, however White refused to take that top spot away from heavyweight champ Jon Jones. As long as Jones is still going strong and winning fights, White said, there’s nothing much Makhachev can do in his eyes except settle into the No. 2 spot and wait for Jones to retire.

“I think he’s one of the greatest of all-time,” White said of Makhachev at the UFC 302 post-fight press conference. “I think he’s incredible. I don’t think he’s the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world. For anyone to call Islam the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world when Jon Jones is still f*cking fighting is nuts and shouldn’t be ranking in the pound-for-pound, or doing any of the f*cking rankings ever if that’s what you really think.

“Jon Jones has never lost a fight, ever. He’s fought all the baddest dudes in the world, and then when you think about what pound-for-pound rankings really mean — he moved up to heavyweight and destroyed the best guy in the world. As long as Jon Jones is still fighting, active and in the rankings, nobody [else] is pound-for-pound the best fighter in the world.”

It’s certainly tough to match Jones’ credentials when it comes to the argument about greatest of all-time, especially given his jaw-dropping résumé that dates all the way back to his UFC debut in 2008. The only blemish on Jones’ record came via disqualification in a fight Jones was clearly winning. White has worked for years to get that loss overturned but has been unsuccessful thus far.

As far as Makhachev being the more active fighter with a much busier schedule over the past few years, White scoffs at that somehow trumping what Jones did in his return from a three-year hiatus.

“Let’s talk about activity,” White said. “Three years off — nobody, not even [Muhammad] Ali, nobody’s ever come from three years off and looked the same. Jon Jones walked through the No. 1 guy in the heavyweight division like it was nothing with three years off.

“Jon Jones is the best ever. Ever. And when I say ever, I mean in any combat sport. He’s the best ever. You throw Jon Jones in a room with anybody, Jon Jones walks out of the room.”

White also doubled down on his belief that Jones deserves that top spot not only thanks to his domination over the light heavyweight division for his entire career, but the fact that he finally moved up to heavyweight and did much of the same in his debut against Ciryl Gane in 2023. On that night, Jones needed just two minutes to tap out Gane and become UFC heavyweight champion. He hopes to further solidify his legacy with a tentatively scheduled fight in November against the most accomplished UFC heavyweight ever, Stipe Miocic.

Meanwhile, Makhachev may have taken out Poirier in impressive fashion at UFC 302, but his two previous title defenses came against a career featherweight, which is why White just can’t put as must stock in those wins compared to what Jones has accomplished.

“When you think about what pound-for-pound really means, [Makhachev] fought [Alexander] Volkanovski, who’s a weight class lower than him,” White explained. “Jon Jones beat everybody at light heavyweight then beat the best heavyweight in the division like it was nothing at a higher weight class.”

Despite being at odds with Jones at times over the years, White couldn’t speak any higher about the heavyweight champion on Saturday if he tried, and to him, there’s no debating this particular subject.

“Jon Jones is absolutely, positively the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world and probably the greatest fighter of all-time in any sport,” White said. “When you talk about who’s the baddest dude in the world, you put two guys in a row and who walks out? Jon Jones walks out of the f*cking room every time. No question about it.”

After hearing White’s comments, Jones reacted and offered his appreciation that all his hard work is being recognized.

“It felt awesome to get that level of recognition from the boss, the man that’s literally been here since UFC 1,” Jones wrote on Twitter. “I know the haters are not gonna like his comments but Dana’s a pretty hard person to argue with. Dana White has had a front row seat to my entire career, facts are facts.”

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