Jon Jones has been surpassed by Israel Adesanya, claims old UFC rival

A former top rival has told Jon Jones that he's been surpassed by Israel Adesanya and that he's no longer 'one of the greats'.

By: Tim Bissell | 2 months ago

Jon Jones career is winding down

Jon Jones spent much of the past few years on the sidelines. The former UFC light heavyweight champion was away from the sport as he unsuccessfully tried to finagle a fight with then UFC heavyweight champ Francis Ngannou while carefully priming his body for the big boys club.

He was also held out of action due to a domestic violence arrest, where he was accused of assaulting his former fiancee in a Vegas hotel shortly after being involved in a UFC Hall of Fame induction ceremony. He wasn’t charged over whatever lead to his fiancee reportedly having a swollen lip and blood on her sweater, but he did face a count for damaging a police car (which he headbutted during his arrest).

Jones finally returned the cage in March, 2023 (over three years since his previous appearance). And he picked up right where he left off, beating Ciryl Gane to win the vacant UFC heavyweight title and continuing to pad his record as the most impressive sporting achievement in MMA.

March 4, 2023, Las Vegas, NV, LAS VEGAS, NV, USA: LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 4: Jon Jones prepares to fight Ciryl Gane in their Heavyweight fight during the UFC 285 event at T-Mobile Arena on March 4, 2023 in Las Vegas, NV, USA. Las Vegas, NV USA - ZUMAp175 20230304_zsa_p175_246 Copyright: xLouisxGrassex
Jon Jones at UFC 285. IMAGO/ZUMA Wire

Jon Jones is not the star of the show anymore

Despite having a flawless record (forget the DQ loss and the no contest, no one cares about them), Jones’ influence and draw in the sport has declined. And, according to a former rival, he has been surpassed by one Israel Adesanya.

“What Izzy did [at UFC 290] and the attention that Izzy can command, and the hype that Izzy can command, the checks that he gets, the money and the dollars that he brings, he’s coming after [Conor] McGregor’s spot,” said former UFC title challenger Chael Sonnen when he appeared on The MMA Hour. “I’m telling you now. And he’s long put Jon Jones in the dust.”

“Jon Jones has never played that game,” continued Sonnen. “It’s going to be a mistake. Ten years from now, when you’re looking back and trying to tell the story, you’re not going to be saying Jon Jones. You’re going to be saying Adesanya.”

Sonnen when on to say that, though Jones’ sporting record is fantastic, he’s not on Adesanya’s level when it comes to making yourself the biggest star possible in MMA and beyond.

“If Jon watched this piece right now, he wouldn’t know what I’m saying,” remarked Sonnon. “‘What is he saying? What is the fight business? What’s he talking about?’ He doesn’t even know, and there’s only four or five guys that know. But those are the guys. Those are the guys that matter. Those are the guys that move the needle.”

Sonnen also said that Jones not being able to get his fight with Ngannou is an indictment on the lack of influence and power he has in the sport.

“You want to go walk around and say you’re the greatest in the sport? You can’t get a goddamn fight to happen? You can’t get a fight to happen that the promoter wants to happen? Then you’re not one of the greats in the sport. You’re not great at it at all. You kind of suck at it. That’s where he’s at, on the business side of it. He can throw the punches and kicks. So what? Try to pay a bill with those.”

Jon Jones and Adesanya seem cool

As Jon Jones’ presence in MMA was dwindling (for various reasons around the time of the pandemic), Israel Adesanya’s star was on the rise. As they passed, on opposite sides of the UFC’s escalator, both men had a lot to say about the other.

The feuding online lead some to think there might be a chance to see the pair fight. However, it quickly became clear that Adesanya was moving onto to other things and that Jones had a very precise, and limited, plan for how he wanted the last year of his career to pan out.

With neither man a threat to the other, or where they want to go, it seems as though things are now cool between ‘Bones’ and ‘The Last StyleBender’.

What is Jones’ legacy?

Should Jones follow through with his plan to fight, and beat, Stipe Miocic in Madison Square Garden on November 11 and then retire from the sport with a quasi-30-0 record, how will he be remembered?

His run to win the UFC title and then defend it against a murderer’s row is one of the most exciting and impressive periods in the promotion’s history. However, what came next, after Jones smashed his car into a pregnant woman’s vehicle and then fled the scene, has taken plenty of shine away from that glory. And that incident, and many (many) others that followed, have dulled whatever shine can be applied to what he’s done in the cage since then.

If all we add to Jones’ legacy is a title defense against Miocic, is Sonnen right that we’ll soon forget about Jones? Has Adesanya already done enough to make his career more memorable (for positive reasons) than the once likeable Jones?

What fate has in store for Adesanya remains to be seen. But one thing we know for certain is that when we talk about Jones – in the present, past or future, we will never be able to just ‘stick to sports’. And because of those extra-circulars we’ll want to forget, not remember, much of his career.

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About the author
Tim Bissell
Tim Bissell

Tim Bissell is a writer, editor and deputy site manager for Bloody Elbow. He has covered combat sports since 2015. Tim covers news and events and has also written longform and investigative pieces. Among Tim's specialties are the intersections between crime and combat sports. Tim has also covered head trauma, concussions and CTE in great detail.

Tim is also BE's lead (only) sumo reporter. He blogs about that sport here and on his own substack, Sumo Stomp!

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