UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones said if he needs to sit out several years to stand up for what he believes is right, it's something he will be remembered for more than his fighting. But he is optimistic the UFC ultimately will meet him halfway in negotiations.
Jones has said he would be willing to vacate his belt after talks for a superfight with heavyweight knockout artist Francis Ngannou fell through. Jones and fellow UFC superstar Jorge Masvidal are waging social media battles with the UFC and promotion president Dana White to get more money and increase revenue sharing among fighters.
"I'm not asking for anything outrageous, and I know we're in a pandemic, and I know when you're a multimillionaire and you're asking for more, it makes you seem like this greedy person," Jones said on Steve-O's "Wild Ride" podcast. "I'm very aware of all of this, but I'm also very aware that I have the voice and the platform to make change.
"Most of the guys who are doing the absolute worst are not in the position that they can say publicly, 'I have a second job, I'm borrowing money from my parents.' I know so many fighters who are living in the Jackson Wink MMA gym because they can't afford to have their own apartment, and they're UFC fighters. So this is sad.
"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."
While Masvidal said "God willing" that he will fight in 2020 if he gets paid what he feels he is worth, Jones is no hurry.
"I don't want to fight soon," Jones said. "I have no interest in fighting in the UFC until I get paid what I believe I'm worth.
"I think it's really powerful when you stand up for what you believe is right. I think eventually the UFC will realize that they're being stubborn, will realize that they have a special athlete in myself, and I think they'll eventually meet me halfway."
White, who has described Jones as the greatest MMA fighter of all time, recently said Jones can fight whenever he wants. He said Jones and Masvidal both signed new contracts within the past year.
"Being the greatest of all time doesn't mean you get $30 million. It's being able to sell," said White, who added that UFC walked Jones through the recent numbers on his fights. "[Jones] said, 'I don't give a f--- what the numbers are. I want what I want.'
"That's not how life works."
Jones said he wished he had a better relationship with White.
"If it has gotten to a place of being personal, I would just much rather work for a company where I felt like I went home," Jones said. "I'm home when I go to work. I have a great relationship with the UFC staff, but it's a weird feeling when you feel like they don't want you there."
Jones said it would be a good time for any promotion to have him as the face of the franchise. He said he learned from a "humiliating" DWI arrest in March and is excited about a community outreach program he helped organize in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he trains at Jackson Wink MMA.
"I do feel good," he said. "My last DWI has done a lot for me. It set me free in so many ways. It embarrassed me. It reality-checked me. I've never been on camera drunk for the public to see like that. It was humiliating, and somewhat of a bottom for me. And I'm ready to snap it into high gear."