Most likely the biggest story in MMA this year has been the ongoing contract negotiations between the UFC and Jon Jones. After vacating his light heavyweight title last year to move up to heavyweight, Jones was ostensibly in line to challenge the winner of UFC 260’s heavyweight title fight between Stipe Miocic and Francis Ngannou. However, after Ngannou knocked out Miocic to claim the belt, Jones and UFC President Dana White almost immediately began arguing over compensation. With the UFC now seemingly set on moving forward and booking Ngannou against Derrick Lewis later this summer. In response, Jones has said he’s willing to sit out and wait, much to the chagrin of fans. But, another all-time great fighter believes that is the correct course of action for Jones to take.
“I think Jon should fight the champion, not Stipe,” UFC Hall of Famer Georges St-Pierre said on Steve-O’s Wild Ride podcast. “I think he should fight Francis Ngannou, the champion. I believe, if I’m Jon Jones – when we talk about this, we talk about it like a chess game because these are big important decisions that you make. Fighting, there’s always a question. Because you think you beat one guy doesn’t mean that even if the odds favor you, doesn’t mean you’re always gonna win. I think it would be a mistake for Jon Jones to fight Stipe.”
Georges St-Pierre is not stranger to contract disputes with the UFC, repeatedly having issues with the organization during his tenure as champion and especially during negotiations for his return bout against Michael Bisping. Even recently, St-Pierre butted heads with Dana White after White prevented him from boxing Oscar De La Hoya, due to promotional rights the UFC still retains over St-Pierre.
Make no mistake though, GSP isn’t saying Jones should avoid fighting Miocic because he would lose. GSP just believes it’s an unnecessary risk that Jones would be taking. Instead, he can wait to fight for the belt and once he claims his second UFC title, Jones will have substantially more leverage, or can just move on to whatever is next in his life.
“I believe Jon Jones will beat Stipe, however, why take the risk of fighting Stipe when you can wait and fight the champion, if you can, and collect two belts,” Georges St-Pierre said. “Then after, Jon Jones the greatest of all time, if he does that he can run off into the sunset. His stock will be as high as – more higher than anybody ever. Another world will open for him as he retires. He can do whatever he wants. The problem is, guys hang there in the sport for too long. They are considered the best but they hang there too long so now their stock goes down and they retire as their stock are down so when they retire, the door does not open for them because they already broke. Their stock is bad. So that’s why you should retire on top.”
St-Pierre is generally seen as having a near-perfect MMA career, and is often cited as the example by which young fighters should attempt to follow. After wining the middleweight title in his return bout, he then retired from MMA in 2019 when talks of a possible superfight with Khabib Nurmagomedov were squashed by Dana White. Instead, St-Pierre is continuing on with a number of other business endeavors, including his nascent acting career. Jones is in a very similar position to St-Pierre and could follow in GSP’s footsteps if he so chose. However, so long as he continues to pursue fighting, St-Pierre’s advice to Jones and to all other fighters is to maximize everything.
“You need to fight for every inch of it,”Georges St-Pierre said. “I don’t do that. It’s not my job. I’m not qualified to do that but I have very qualified people who do that for me and I think a fighter, one of his jobs, is to choose carefully his team. That he hires people he can trust but also who are qualified to do the job to represent him well.”
Jones recently did just that, retaining former Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer as a career advisor. Schaefer is known in the combat sports world as a deal maker and has said that his “one task” right now is to deliver a Jon Jones vs. Francis Ngannou. If he can do so and Jones can win a title in his second weight class, perhaps Jon Jones can end his career like Georges St-Pierre did – on top.