UFC President Dana White said he has “absolutely moved on” from waiting to see whether Jon Jones will sign a new contract to rejoin the promotion.
White explained in a TMZ Sports interview released Friday that the UFC will not hold up the heavyweight division for Jones:
"Listen, I put on fights every Saturday. We have a window where we try to build some fights and make some things happen. If the fights don't happen within that window, we move on, and realistically, I mean I've been saying it since the beginning, Derrick Lewis is the guy who should be getting the title shots. He beat Francis Ngannou. He's next in line, he's coming off of great performances and that's a wrap. We're moving on."
Jones hasn't entered the Octagon since February 2020, when he defeated Dominick Reyes by unanimous decision to retain the light heavyweight championship. He vacated the belt in August.
The 33-year-old New York native has been embroiled in a contract dispute with White and Co. since last summer, something he discussed in June on the Steve-O's Wild Ride podcast (via ESPN), saying he was trying to help other fighters who are struggling financially.
"And if I have to have a bad relationship with Dana, sit out for two years, three years, to bring light to what's happening, then these are the things people remember you for more than winning belts. I stood for the younger fighters," Jones said.
White was asked by TMZ whether Jones is done with the UFC for good amid the extended hiatus:
"That's up to Jon. He could absolutely fight again at 205 lbs. He said he wouldn't fight [Stipe Miocic] and now Derrick and Francis are fighting so we'll see how that fight plays out.
"There's nothing wrong with going out on top either—Jon Jones is undefeated, he's never been beat.
"For those people that don't know, you see that 1 loss on his record, he didn't lose that fight he won that fight in dominant fashion like most of his fights. It was a time when the Nevada Athletic Commission was at its weakest and there was a referee that shouldn't have been in there and he stole that fight from Jon Jones. So, it wouldn't be a bad thing for him to go out on top."
Jones owns a 26-1 career record with one no-contest. The only loss came as White described, and that was all the way back in December 2009.
His return fight, whether it's at heavyweight or light heavyweight, would generate plenty of attention and hype, so there's plenty of incentive for the sides to get a deal done.
In the meantime, the UFC is moving forward with plans for the clash between Ngannou and Lewis. Perhaps by the time the winner of that bout is ready to fight again, something can be worked out with Jones.