Jon Jones is the UFC Light Heavyweight champion…. Again. However, he didn’t just reclaim his title, he violently finished Daniel Cormier and looked more dangerous than ever (as we discussed). One fight in two years and Jones managed to redefine ring rust. The last time Jones challenged for a title was March 19, 2011, against Mauricio Rua. That’s how long he has been dominant (when he is eligible to compete). But now that the UFC’s prodigal son has emphatically returned, where does he go from here? Who will be Jon Jones next opponent?

Who’s Next? – Jon Jones Next Opponent

Firstly, you must always honor Bill Goldberg when uttering those two words. Secondly, where does Jones go from here? Let’s evaluate the options:

       1. The favorite: Alexander Gustafsson

Jon Jones next opponent

Assuming the UFC follows any hierarchy (which can be difficult at times), this fight should be next. Gustafsson is the number one contender and is presently fighting at his highest level. He  and Jones had an absolute WAR at UFC 165 and were scheduled for a rematch that ultimately fell through due to injuries. No fighter has come closer to defeating Jones than Gustafsson and it may be time for the next chapter. Should Gustafsson be Jon Jones next opponent?

       2. The darkhorse: Anthony “Rumble” Johnson

Although retired, Johnson has expressed interest in fighting Jones “if the money was right.” Johnson is one of the few elite light heavyweights that has never fought Jones. The two were scheduled to fight at UFC 187 before Jones was suspended and stripped of his title. Johnson’s explosive power would cause problems for Jones, but Rumble seems to be content for now working in the marijuana industry. Should Johnson be Jon Jones next opponent?

       3. The super fight: Brock Lesnar

Jon Jones next opponent

Let’s not get our hopes up. The two have traded barbs in the media and Jones even called him out after his UFC 214 win, but this fight is a logistical nightmare. Who knows if Lesnar is even in the USADA testing pool (several conflicting reports speculating have come out surrounding this). Realistically, this fight is over one year away. However, If this fight were to happen, it would be the biggest fight in UFC history.

Jones is going to fight Gustafsson first and I can almost guarantee that, but hold on, can we even trust him? Should Brock be Jon Jones next opponent?

Who’s Next (to carry the UFC)

Once again, thank you Bill Goldberg for existing.

“Jon Jones is BACK!” How many time have people written that sentence over the last two years? Jones has had as many suspensions as he has had fights since April 2015 and now, with Conor McGregor boxing, he is STILL the biggest star in the UFC. What a time to be alive.

Can the UFC invest in him now? Who do they turn to if the worst happens again?

I broke down every champion based off of their headlining numbers to find the UFC’s contingency plan.

*All figures were calculated using www.mmapayout.com and by”headlining numbers,” I strictly mean main event; the last fight on the card.*

 

  • Conor McGregor; Lightweight Champion; Headlined UFC 189, 194, 196, 202, 205; Average pay-per-view buys per event: 1,223,400
  • Amanda Nunes; Women’s Bantamweight Champion; Headlined UFC 200, 207; Average pay-per-view buys per event: 1,054,500
  • Jon Jones; Light Heavyweight Champion; Headlined UFC 128, 135, 140, 145, 152, 159, 165, 172, 182, 197, 214; Average pay-per-view buys per event: 495,200 (official 214 numbers are not yet available)
  • Stipe Miocic; Heavyweight Champion; Headlined UFC 198, 203, 211; Average pay-per-view buys per event: 322,333
  • Michael Bisping; Middleweight Champion; Headlined UFC 78, 199, 204; Average pay-per-view buys per event: 311,667
  • Tyron Woodley; Welterweight Champion; Headlined UFC 201, 209; Average pay-per-view buys per event: 270,000
  • Max Holloway; Featherweight Champion; Headlined UFC 206, 212; Average pay-per-view buys per event: 175,000
  • Demetrious Johnson; Flyweight Champion; Headlined UFC 174, 178, 186, 191; Average pay-per-view buys per event: 140,000
  • Cody Garbrandt (Bantamweight Champion); Joanna Jedrzejczyk (Women’s Strawweight Champion); Cris Cyborg (Women’s Featherweight Champion); None have main event experience.

Jon Jones Next Opponent

Keeping up with the Jones

Although Nunes has better selling numbers than Jones, she has been fortunate in bookings. Jones was supposed to headline UFC 200, before he was suspended days before the fight allowing Nunes/ Tate to be promoted to headline. Ronda Rousey decided she wanted to fight again at UFC 207 and Nunes was her opponent by champion default. I am not saying Nunes has zero drawing power, but her numbers are inflated because of circumstances. However, after her UFC 213 weight cutting issue, Dana White has stated that she will not main event any cards; thus adding more pressure on Jones.

Despite his out of competition issues, Jones is the most experienced and marketable champion that the UFC possesses outside of Conor McGregor. They NEED him to stay clean. Granted, there are potential stars on the horizon (Cyborg, Garbrandt, a GSP return), but for right now as McGregor is in a different sport, Jones is option 1-5.

Is the UFC safe with Jones at the helm? His closing comments at the post fight press conference on Saturday were not exactly reassuring: “I’m not gonna sit here and promise I’ll be a saint. I’m a wild mother f**ker at the end of the day. But I can do better.”

Only time will tell.

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Jon Jones Next Opponent