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Coach ‘very reluctant’ to give Jon Jones fight against Israel Adesanya

Israel Adesanya
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

If a superfight between Israel Adesanya and Jon Jones is ever going to happen, Adesanya’s team is confident that it will happen on their terms.

In an interview with Submission Radio, City Kickboxing head coach Eugene Bareman spoke on the growing rivalry between the two UFC champions, stating that it his pupil Adesanya—the fighter who recently dethroned Robert Whittaker at UFC 243 to claim the undisputed middleweight title—that will decide when it is appropriate for he and Jones to clash inside the Octagon.

“Jon Jones a hundred percent needs Israel,” Bareman said. “Israel does not need Jon Jones at all. Israel is baiting Jon Jones at every corner, and Jon Jones just keeps biting because Jon Jones knows he needs Israel. Let’s not talk about Jon Jones, let’s talk about Stipe (Miocic). If we have to talk about this superfight, let’s talk about Stipe. Let’s talk about Israel going up. Has anybody gone up and won two titles but skipped a division? Well, there you go. There’s a bit of history.

“Jon Jones so far has not been willing to go to heavyweight, he’s been reluctant to go to heavyweight? Am I correct? Well, Israel wouldn’t be reluctant to go to heavyweight. Israel would go to heavyweight and he would fight Stipe Miocic. There you go. We’ll take that fight, Jon Jones. If you don’t want to take it, you can hang around at light heavyweight. We’ll skip light heavyweight and we’ll take that fight off you. There’s some more bait there so Jon Jones can bite on it and start doing what he does, like what these guys do. But we’ll take the fight. Don’t worry about it, Jon Jones. Let’s stop talking about Jon Jones, let’s talk about Stipe. We’ve got a bit to do. We’ve got Paulo Costa, we’ve got other things.”

Adesanya improved to 18-0 with his second-round knockout of Whittaker, and 7-0 inside the Octagon. He debuted in the UFC in February of 2018 and began feuding publicly with Jones earlier this year, recently saying that he’ll eventually fight Jones after defending his newly won belt, with Costa the leading candidate to be his first challenger.

The two middleweights have traded verbal shots and both would bring unbeaten records into a title fight. Costa has also worked his way to the front of the line, winning all five of his UFC fights so far and recently winning a decision against longtime contender Yoel Romero.

Aside from Costa’s spot in the rankings, Bareman also prefers him as an opponent over Jones due to issues that he has with Jones’s character.

“[Jones] would be a hard fight for my team, the group of guys that get together and decide who Israel fights, that would be a very hard fight for us to get across the line,” Bareman said. “Because we’re just like, why? There’s ethical and moral issues that don’t sit well with my team, and they would be very reluctant to give a man like him the sort of opportunity that Israel can bestow on him.

“We have a track record of not fighting certain opponents even though they make sense. And I’m not talking about in the UFC, I’m talking about locally, because they’re just not good people. And Israel can want to fight him and have all the desire in the world to fight him that he wants, but it’s not his decision. It’s not solely his decision. So, if my team decides that… it would just be hard for me to look at my team and ask them, should we give Jon Jones this opportunity considering the type of person he is?”

Jones’s run-ins with the law have been well-documented, including a hit-and-run case in April 2015 that led to the end of his first light heavyweight championship run when the UFC stripped him of his title and, more recently, battery allegations stemming from an incident at a strip club this past July.

Those kinds of mishaps are something Bareman won’t tolerate with his own fighters, including Adesanya, and he mentioned that his team and Jones’s team appear to handle things differently.

“Let me explain this. Like, we’re different camps. If Israel goes and does some of the things that Jon Jones does, he can no longer, he’s not going to be a part of my gym,” Bareman said. “Doesn’t matter how much money he makes, he will have to leave my gym, because he’ll just be a shit human being. And you can’t do that. You can’t be that person at my gym. Like, and I’m not… their setup’s different. Their setup’s different, and obviously they treat things and they treat people differently. But, like, I’m just giving an example from my gym and I’m using Israel figuratively.

“If Israel does those sort of things, he has to leave the gym. And maybe he doesn’t leave the gym, but then me and the 30 other guys on the fight team, we take him out the back and we bash the shit out of him, you know, we give him some tough love. And, we say, you know, it’s just different, it’s a completely different team. They set it up and they run it how they want to run it and all power to them, and me and my team, we do things our way. And yeah, that’s the key difference. I’m not saying anything about their team. They’ve been one of the best teams, still are one of the best teams in the world and they will remain to be that, it’s just a way different setup to my setup, that’s all I’m saying.”

For more from Bareman, including his thoughts on Costa, Conor McGregor, and a Whittaker rematch, check out the interview below:

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