It was May 24, 2014, and the UFC wanted to book a rematch between Jones and Alexander Gustafsson, who seven months earlier had pushed the then-light heavyweight champ to his very limit at UFC 165.
The holdup, according to White, was that Jones wanted to fight Daniel Cormier next instead of Gustafsson, and negotiations on a contract extension had snagged on that detail. Jones wouldn’t sign.
“What’s up with Jones? Did he straighten up or is he still being a scumbag?” White texted then-UFC Chairman Fertitta in a message recently unsealed as part of the UFC antitrust lawsuit. (Reps for Jones and the UFC did not respond to a request for comment.)
“Still a douche, but we’re inching closer,” Fertitta responded. “Haven’t moved on money, but sent the letter with an ultimatum.”
“Awesome,” White responded. “F*** that punk, Lorenzo. He needs to know we don’t need him, or he will f*** us over more than he already does.”
Jones’ relationship with the UFC had already endured some rocky moments, none bigger than his decision not to take a short-notice title defense against Chael Sonnen at UFC 151. White had publicly blasted Jones and his coaching staff, infamously declaring in a press release, “UFC 151 will be remembered as the event Jon Jones and Greg Jackson murdered.” But in the octagon, Jones had returned to form, dominating Glover Teixeira at UFC 172.
With five fights left on Jones’ contract, White and Fertitta’s mission was to lock up the champion for more time. In doing so, they unknowingly provided a window into negotiating tactics that are now at the center of a court fight over whether they broke the law by locking fighters into long-term contracts, keeping competitors from being able to compete in the market for elite MMA fighters. The plaintiffs to the UFC antitrust suit claim such contracts were part of an illegal scheme to depress fighter salaries and seek damages from the UFC that could total over $1 billion. The case is expected to go to trial in April.
Jones and the UFC were still one year away from what would become a bigger stress test of their partnership, a hit-and-run accident that left a pregnant woman with a broken arm and Jones facing jail time. But already the future Hall of Famer was a thorn in White’s side.
In an unsealed legal back-and-forth, White reminded plaintiffs’ lawyer Michael Dell’Angelo that the subject of his texts hadn’t always been a model citizen in or outside of the cage.
“So you wanted Mr. Fertitta to let Mr. Jones know that the UFC didn’t need him?” Dell’Angelo asked White.
“Yeah,” White responded.
“And be a scumbag in negotiations?” Dell’Angelo added.
“No,” White responded. “Do you know Jon Jones’ history? Just to be a scumbag in life. …. I mean, you could get pretty much every guy who works for me to testify that, yes, I was not happy with Jon Jones’ life choices.”
Jones would later sit out more than three years from February 2020 to March 2023 amid another contract dispute with the UFC over his potential pay for a superfight with then-UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou. White again publicly blasted Jones at the time, claiming that he asked for an “obscene” amount of money — $30 million, or what boxing champion Deontay Wilder was paid for a bout with Tyson Fury — to take the fight. White also insinuated Jones didn’t really want to face Ngannou, implying that he was afraid of the Cameroonian fighter. Jones called White’s money claims a “lie” and “bulls***,” and he scoffed at the idea of being afraid to take the fight.
Ngannou defended Jones’ request for more compensation.
“I think it makes sense,” Ngannou told TMZ. “I think for a mega-fight everyone would like to have mega-pay, [same] as mine. I want that fight. I would like to have good pay, and every other fighter out there would like that, so there’s nothing irrational in this.”
After Ngannou declined to sign a new long-term deal and became a free agent, prompting the UFC to strip him of the title, White did an about-face on Jones, who’d just signed a new long-term deal that included a fight with Ciryl Gane for the vacant heavyweight belt. White insinuated Ngannou didn’t want to take the fight, looking for “lesser opponents” that would pay bigger purses.
Jones joined White in taking shots at Ngannou, the most direct of which came after the ex-champ congratulated him on dispatching Gane and signed off calling himself “the heavyweight king.”
“I love that quote,” Jones said. “I love it. All that muscle, with a big ass p****. Excuse me. I’m so sorry.”