UFC president Dana White gave a hearty thumbs up Wednesday to Jon Jones’ announcement that he’d hired former Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer as his new adviser. Schaefer was brought on board to help facilitate a bout between Jones and heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou.
White, though, said that if Ngannou-Jones happens, it will be down the road. He said Ngannou will make the first defense of his heavyweight title against Derrick Lewis in Houston, likely in August.
But White said he can work with Schaefer.
“I like Richard Schaefer and I respect the guy,” White told Yahoo Sports. “I’ve known him for a long time. He’s a real guy. He’s a guy who gets deals done.”
Schaefer was almost the perfect guy for Jones to hire. Schaefer’s history in boxing promoting major pay-per-views featuring Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd Mayweather and Saul "Canelo" Alvarez gives him a unique insight into the business that few others possess.
Jones, the one-time UFC light heavyweight champion who is regarded by most as the greatest fighter in mixed martial arts history, is looking to move up to heavyweight and capture the championship there.
Schaefer certainly can help smooth the process of getting a deal done. He said a friend introduced him to Jones, who chose him from a group of other people he’d interviewed.
Jones wrote, “Richard has been in the combat space for over 20 years and has put together some of the biggest global pay-per-view events over that period. The likes of Mayweather, De La Hoya, Canelo, Hopkins, Barrera and Marquez have headlined the exciting events that Richard has promoted and produced. His knowledge of the pay-per-view industry and combat sports are second to none.”
Unfortunately for fans hoping to see Jones fight Ngannou, that’s almost certainly not going to happen this year. With Ngannou making his first defense against Lewis, likely in August, that likely means that a Jones-Ngannou fight would have to wait until 2022.
Schaefer, a one-time banking executive, said he signed a multi-fight deal with Jones. But he’ll spend a lot of his time working to make the biggest fight.
“The UFC, being a publicly traded company now, they want to put together the biggest fights,” Schaefer told Yahoo Sports. “They’re not going to make any money if Jon Jones is sitting around. They want to find a way to structure a deal and the same is true of Jon. He wants to fight. Jon is the kind of guy, and I like that, he’ll fight anyone. He likes to challenge himself.
“On top of that, I’ve always had a good relationship with Dana. You know that. We sort of like the same people in boxing and we hate the same people in boxing. Besides that, we’ve always respected each other. It’s just a matter of sitting down with Dana, which I will do, and find a way to structure a deal which nobody will be happy with but everybody can live with.”
Schaefer said his goal isn’t to break the UFC’s pay structure but only to get the best deal for Jones. He said it’s not fair to compare the UFC to boxing because business-wise, they’re fundamentally different.
He said he believes Jones-Ngannou is the biggest fight that can be made in the UFC and feels White will be amenable to getting it done.
“Boxing and MMA are different sports,” Schaefer said. “You always hear people comparing boxing and MMA and saying, ‘Oh, boxers are paid more.’ You really can’t do that. You have to look at it overall. It’s a different sport, UFC. They have big investments in their platform and so on, so this is not about breaking the UFC mold. It’s about negotiating the biggest possible fight I believe that can be made in UFC.
“That doesn’t automatically mean that everything is going to be different. I don’t think so. They have their own business plan, their own revenue share and so on, just like the NBA does and Major League Baseball and others. … So we can work within that framework and negotiate a deal that works.”
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