Jon Jones and Francis Ngannou continued their Twitter tit-for-tat this week. The UFC light-heavyweight champion hit back on social media after heavyweight contender Ngannou asked, “Hello Jonny, are you still there?” “Yes I’m right here, just waking up from watching that Derek Lewis fight again,” Jones responded. “You ain’t scaring nobody, I saw your heart. You’re a big old mouse, I’ll expose you.” Their back and forth started after UFC Fight Night in Jacksonville, when Jones watched former 205-pound challenger Ovince Saint Preux move up to heavyweight and look comfortable against Roy Nelson, and figured he would have no problem doing the same. Ngannou welcomed the idea – and offered to welcome “Bones” to the division. The UFC’s pound-for-pound No 1 and greatest-of-all-time contender didn’t back down and instead simply stated “send the deal”. Both guys clearly know a fight between them would mean big money. But so does simply entertaining the idea of such a fight, when it comes to negotiating with the UFC for their next encounters in the Octagon. Joe Rogan ‘excited’ to sign US$100 million podcast deal with Spotify “Anything’s possible,” UFC president Dana White said at the UFC on ESPN 8 post-event press conference last weekend. “I don’t know if those guys really want that fight. “Let me tell you this, and I’m not saying this is the case with these two – you see a lot of talk online and whatever it might be. Actually making fights is a whole other ball game.” Jones and Ngannou’s Twitter trash-talk really does just seem that little bit too orchestrated. The fight doesn’t make much sense either – Jones has a slew of title challengers in what is fast becoming a stacked light-heavyweight landscape once again. Dominick Reyes and Thiago Santos both have strong cases for rematches after being on the wrong end of controversial decisions against Jones in his last two fights. Then you have Blachowicz, who possibly positioned himself as the next challenger with a big knockout of Corey Anderson. Ngannou himself is on the cusp of another heavyweight title shot, after a string of highlight-reel first-round KOs. His latest victim, Jairzinho Rozenstruik, lasted only 20 seconds at UFC 249. Ngannou could fight former champion Daniel Cormier for the vacant belt if Stipe Miocic is stripped for refusing to fight during the global pandemic while he carries out his duties as a first responder in Ohio. But Jones and Ngannou men know a fight between them would trump everything else they have on their plates, in terms of paycheques. Jones is still a huge draw for the UFC, probably only behind Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov. However, the prizefighter in Jones knows he is getting nowhere near the same level of pay with fights against the likes of Reyes, Santos and Blachowicz. That’s where Ngannou comes in. “The Predator” (15-3) is the most frightening fighter on the UFC roster with hammers for hands that have put away eight fighters in the first round, from a total of 12 Octagon outings. And pantomime villain Jones knows people will pay big money in the hope of seeing him lose. “Some of you have been waiting to see me lose for over a decade, now finally you stick me in there with a giant you’re mouth-watering,” Jones tweeted. “Maybe you’ll see what you’ve been waiting for years, maybe you won’t. The question is how much are you willing to pay to see it?” The answer for most is probably “take my money”. Whether it’s a smart fight for Jones is another question entirely. He could probably walk straight into a title fight with Miocic if he wanted, or a trilogy fight with Cormier should “DC” prevail over the heavyweight champ in their own trilogy match-up. It’s all risk and little reward for Jones (26-1), whose only career defeat is a disqualification. And chances are, Ngannou’s putting you to sleep if he makes that neck twist. Jones would gain a lot more from, say, waiting for middleweight champion Israel Adesanya to come up and snapping his undefeated MMA record. “You think I’m just going to sit there and let Francis kill me?” Jones tweeted on Thursday, though, referencing Cormier’s own words to him which were famously caught by a hot mic off-air in an ESPN interview on SportsCenter in 2014. You think I’m just going to sit there and let Francis kill me? (In my best DC voice) https://t.co/sT3LtRdK9P — Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) May 21, 2020 Miocic showed the blueprint to beat Ngannou at UFC 220 in January 2018. He utilised excellent head movement to duck the Cameroonian’s bombs, with Ngannou quickly gassing out. Miocic then simply wrestled him for the rest of the five-round contest. It’s the only blemish on Ngannou’s UFC record, other than that bizarre decision defeat by Derek Lewis, a fight which both men frankly deserved to lose. And if Miocic is capable of doing that to Ngannou, Jones certainly can. The X-factor is whether Ngannou has learned from that unsuccessful tilt at the title – there’s simply no way of knowing, because his last four knockout wins add up to less than three minutes total in cage time. There are enough intriguing factors to make it a fight the UFC may want to more closely consider. Help us understand what you are interested in so that we can improve SCMP and provide a better experience for you. We would like to invite you to take this five-minute survey on how you engage with SCMP and the news.