"Brock Lesnar," Jones said, looking straight into the camera. "You want to know what it feels like to get your ass kicked by someone 40 pounds lighter? Meet me in the Octagon."
It wasn't a surprising challenge considering the hype for the proposed superfight actually began during the lead-up to UFC 214 when Jones mentioned during a Facebook Live chat that he would like to face Lesnar after defeating Cormier. On Wednesday, during the last news conference before UFC 214, Jones said, "I'll deal with Daniel and then I'll deal with Brock Lesnar."
While Lesnar is under contract with the WWE through April, he told The Associated Press before UFC 214 that he would be interested in a return to the Octagon and a fight against Jones. "Would I fight Jon Jones? Anytime, anywhere," he said. When contacted again Saturday night after Jones' challenge, Lesnar told the AP, "Be careful what you wish for, young man."
Jones and Lesnar were both hit with one-year suspensions following UFC 200 last year. Jones, who was scheduled to fight Cormier, was pulled from the card and suspended by the United States Anti-Doping Agency for failing a test. Lesnar, who beat Mark Hunt in a unanimous decision that was later changed to a no-contest, failed two tests leading up to the event and must fulfill the final months of his suspension.
UFC president Dana White smiled when asked about the superfight, but he admitted there are a couple of hurdles before it could become a reality.
"It would take six months for Lesnar to even go through USADA to fight," White said. "So it's fun to talk about, but the reality of it happening anytime soon, it's not a reality."
Lesnar, who just turned 40, has been in just one UFC fight since 2011 and hasn't had a recognized victory in the Octagon in more than seven years, but Jones knows none of that matters to fans. Five of Lesnar's past six UFC fights garnered more than one million pay-per-view buys, and the one that didn't had nearly 800,000 buys. In an era where no one outside of Lesnar, Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey can attract those numbers, Jones knows Lesnar is the easiest path to a mega-fight and a mega-payday.
The UFC hasn't had a card without McGregor, Rousey or Lesnar hit even 500,000 buys since January 31, 2015. The closest since then was UFC 203, which did 450,000 buys largely because of the UFC debut of former WWE champion CM Punk. While the return of Jones, who has only fought twice over the past 30 months because of a hit-and-run crash and a failed drug test, will likely push UFC 214 past 500,000 buys, he knows he needs a dance partner like Lesnar to join the million-buys club.
"I started talking to my management team, First Round Management, and Jackson Wink MMA, and I said, 'What would you guys think if this was to happen?'" Jones said. "Obviously, my manager said it's going to be a big payday. That's his job, right, to make me money. And then I asked my team at Jackson Wink MMA, and they said, 'Jon, you can win that fight. You have to dig deep and you have to take yourself to a higher level and you have to earn this fight.'"
"We're serious about it. I think it would be great for the MMA world and it would definitely bring more general public to the sport of mixed martial arts, and that's what we need. We need to expand our sport, so why not be the guy who plays a role in that?"
Jones has been paying close attention to the hype surrounding next month's spectacle between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor, and he said it has changed the way he views future opponents and creating bigger paydays by fighting opponents with a broader appeal outside of MMA. While no one is quite like Mayweather, Jones thinks that maybe Lesnar can help him the same way Mayweather has helped McGregor. After all, Mayweather and Lesnar are both 40-year-old former champions who have been out of their sport for a few years.
"Conor McGregor has been a tremendous inspiration to me," Jones said. "He has shown me, someone who has been in the upper echelon of the sport for many years now -- he's shown me that these huge paydays are possible. I never thought in my time as a champion that I would see fighters making $100 million or whatever he's making in this Mayweather fight. It's been an inspiration that you can do it. It's like the first guy who landed on the moon. Now everyone wants to go to the moon. It's like the first guy who ran the five-minute mile. Now everyone sees that it's possible, and that's what McGregor has done for me."
A fight against Lesnar would force Jones to move up and become a heavyweight, but that's a move that he's willing to make to fight a superstar like Lesnar. It's not, however, a move he's willing to make if it means fighting current UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic.
"I strike for a reason when I strike, and I feel like Stipe is relatively unknown to the general public," Jones said. "It wouldn't even be a real superfight in my opinion. I think MMA fans would be really excited, but the general public wouldn't care about that fight. Most people don't know who he is, with all due respect to him. I think Brock would be a fight that makes way more sense, and the payday would be tremendous and what it would do to our sport would be tremendous. It would make a much bigger impact. That's why a Brock Lesnar fight makes way more sense."