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Is Jon Jones Still A Box Office Draw?

The “GOAT” Will Return At Heavyweight in 2023

It’s been more than 2½ years since Jon Jones last competed in the UFC. Considered by many the greatest fighter of his era, Jones defended his UFC light heavyweight title and then vacated it to move up to the heavyweight division. He’s eyeing a potential “superfight” against Francis Ngannou. While there are already UFC odds on this, the UFC has had issues negotiating with both parties because of the money both are demanding.

This brings the question: Is Jones worth the “Deontay Wilder money” ($30 million) he’s after? A quick look at his history as a pay-per-view should shed some light on this.

Jon Jones
Jon Jones | Sean m. haffey/getty images/afp

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Jones’s Biggest Events

Jones has been a staple in UFC PPVs and has headlined some of the biggest events. Even if he’s had his fair share of issues, fans still care about almost every Jones fight. But judging by his top-selling events, Jones needs a rival to maximize his drawing power.

Rivalry With Daniel Cormier

As much as Jones hates him, he owes Daniel Cormier for his two biggest paydays in the UFC. His two fights with “DC” at UFC 214 in 2017 and UFC 182 in 2015 are Jones’s two best-selling PPVs. UFC 214 reportedly sold 860,000 while UFC 182 did 800,000. Of course, Jones’s press conference brawl with Cormier is a big reason why.

Jones and Cormier have gone back and forth for a good portion of the 2010s. They were virtually unbeatable and the two best pound-for-pound fighters. The legitimate hatred they had for each other only helped to make the UFC more money. Jones, however, dominated the online gambling lines as he beat Cormier convincingly both times.

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Rivalry With Alexander Gustafsson

Alexander Gustafsson is the unexpected rival to Jones. Their first fight at UFC 165 in 2013 sold only 310,000 PPVs, which is the lowest of Jones’s career, as it was expected to be a cakewalk for Jones. But the big underdog almost became the best UFC bet of the year when Gustafsson took it to Jones and gave him his toughest fight.

The rivals had to wait for more than five years to settle the score. This time, UFC 232 did 700,000 buys, which was the second-best selling PPV of this year. Jones made short work of Gustafsson to end the rivalry for good.

Other Top-Selling Events

Cormier and Gustafsson were just two of Jones’s more popular rivals. Earlier in his career, Jones beefed with his former training partner Rashad Evans. The two headlined UFC 145 in 2012, which became Jones’s best-selling PPV in this time selling 700,000 buys. Jones was an easy bet online as he soundly beat Evans.

Finally, Jones fought Anthony Smith in the main event of UFC 232 in 2018. The card sold 650,000 PPV buys though it was a stacked card that featured welterweight champions in Kamaru Usman, Tyron Woodley, and Robbie Lawler. Ben Askren also made his UFC debut here. Jones dominated Smith but was nearly disqualified for kneeing his downed opponent.

Most Recent Events

The UFC’s pay-per-view buy reports have been less accessible since the promotion signed a deal with ESPN. However, Jones’s last events, UFC 247 (2020) and UFC 239 (2019) were both lucrative affairs.

UFC 247 reportedly made $3.54 million at the gate, which was a revenue record for the Toyota Center in Houston at the time. UFC 239 drew more than $6 million, which was the second-best selling gate of the year. Both events proved that Jones is still very much a drawing power in the UFC, especially if we consider that his opponents, Dominick Reyes and Thiago Santos, were not household names.

Jones at Heavyweight Could Make For Bigger Fights

If Jones can carry a Santos or a Smith to some top-selling PPVs, just imagine what he can do with someone such as Ngannou or Stipe Miocic, the former heavyweight champion. They’re not exactly box-office dynamite, but the idea of Jones in a more dangerous division is a potent selling point.

Jones also gets a fresh slate of matchups. Ciryl Gane and Tai Tuivasa just had a banger of a fight in the UFC’s debut in France. Sergei Pavlovich and Tom Aspinall are rising young contenders. And of course, Derrick “The Black Beast” Lewis remains a fan favorite.

Maybe Jones won’t get the $30 million he seeks. But if the UFC opened its purse strings a bit more, Jones would make them more money at 265 pounds.

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