Israel Adesanya believes Jon Jones needs him in order to stay relevant.
Adesanya, the reigning UFC middleweight champ, took this shot at the UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones during a recent interview with ESPN.
“I don’t need him. Actually, I’ll say he needs me if he wants to stay relevant,” Adesanya said (transcript via MMA Junkie). “Because he’s already done a lot in his legacy which is tainted by other things he’s done outside the ring but, for right now to stay relevant, to stay current, he needs me.
“He can keep trying, but he’s got someone else to worry about right now this weekend with Dominick Reyes, so he better focus on that rather than focusing on me.”
While Adesanya has repeatedly shared his interest in a fight with Jones, he’s stated he doesn’t want the fight to happen until 2021.
In his interview with ESPN, however, he acknowledged that he could take the fight now if he wanted. He simply chose to defend his middleweight title first for the benefit of the division.
“I don’t think I have to,” Adesanya said. “I could have done my next fight (vs.) Jones if I wanted to, but this division has been held up for so long because the former champion (Robert Whittaker) was pulling out of fights, was sick, and was holding up the division. So for me, I have to do right like the greats. Like Anderson Silva who defended 12 times, the greats like him. I want to do right by the division and defend my belt, so I’m saying if you want to come down and see me, come see me, but let me get my job done first.
“I’ve got (Paulo) Costa, (Jared) Cannonier, Darren Till is a fresh new name,” Adesanya added. “If Kelvin (Gastelum) can re-up and get back on the chopping block, he can get it, but there’s a few other guys that I want to get to – not have to, I want to get to. I want to defend my belt a few more times before I step up and fight someone like Jon Jones.”
What do you think of these comments from Israel Adesanya? How do you think Jon Jones will react?
This article first appeared on BJPENN.com on 2/6/2020.