The UFC’s top-tier talent seems to be awakening to the idea that the promotion’s parent company might need them every bit as much as they need the UFC right about now.

One of the running subplots in the UFC’s mad dash to become the first sport back up and running during the coronavirus pandemic is the endless trickle of headlines among business press suggesting that the UFC’s ownership group, Endeavor, has hit fierce financial headwinds.

On Monday, The Los Angeles Times reported that Endeavor secured a $260 million loan to get through the pandemic. The Wall Street Journal said Endeavor’s business has dropped 70 percent. One of its divisions, William Morris Entertainment, recently enacted reductions that affect 20 percent of its staff, announced right around the time UFC president Dana White gleefully anticipated layoffs in other industries.

The UFC has functioned as Endeavor’s ATM while navigating its way through a tricky financial periods, providing infusions of millions of dollars at a time through its pay-per-view deal with ESPN and through live event revenue, the latter of which has dried up for the foreseeable future with fans unable to attend live cards due to COVID-19.

And it seems some fighters at the very top of the pyramid, the handful capable of truly driving big business, are waking up to this reality.

Jon Jones is one of them.

The UFC light heavyweight champion tweeted Tuesday that if he was going to have a rematch with Dominick Reyes, whom he narrowly defeated in a thrilling fight last February at UFC 247, the company will have to provide more financial incentive.

I’m just waiting for the UFC to make the reward worth the risk. Unless the organization treat it like a super fight, I might as well stay on schedule fighting the next guy in line

Jones-Reyes 2 is big money, much bigger than Jones vs. random light heavyweight contender of the month. This tweet seems to be Jones telling the UFC if they want to make a rematch with a guy he already beat, but will make money, they better be ready to pay up.

That might be a one-off situation, but there’s this, too: Henry Cejudo, who has proven himself the undisputed king of both the bantamweight and flyweight divisions, abruptly announced his retirement at the peak of his career after defeating Dominick Cruz on Saturday night at UFC 249.

But he, too, dropped a big hint that money is on his mind, as he told reporters at the UFC 249 post-fight news conference that White “knows the number” it would take to get him back into the octagon.

The UFC gets a considerable dollar figure per event from ESPN, but A-list PPV buys above the baseline are what makes the system thrive. And it appears some of the bigger names are starting to understand the power they possess at a time when their company is facing issues.

That might not mean much for the $10,000 to show/$10,000 to win fighters at the bottom of the food chain, some of whom have management that sometimes come across more interested in keeping the assembly line moving and collecting their percentage than doing anything to improve their lot.

But Cejudo’s out (for now). Daniel Cormier is one fight from retirement. Aside from potentially Israel Adesanya, there are no new Conor McGregor or Ronda Rousey-level stars on the horizon.

That leaves fewer options for those all-important, giant-money events. Based on what we’ve heard from Jones and Cejudo, those with cards to play are starting to send out signals they’re not afraid to start playing them.

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