A war of words has erupted over the past few weeks between Adesanya, the UFC’s current middleweight champion, and Jones, a three-time light heavyweight champion, and a duel between the two stars somehow feels both inevitable and logistically difficult to set up. Adesanya is in the early stages of his UFC championship reign while Jones is expected to make a move to heavyweight when he next competes.
Cormier believes both men want the fight, especially his old nemesis Jones, but also sees all of the social media chatter as Adesanya possibly just playing mind games that may not actually lead to an in-cage encounter in the near future.
“Jones wants to fight him,” Cormier said at a media day in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday. “Everybody talks about Jones, but Jones is a fighter. He’ll fight you, he’ll fight anybody. And he wants to fight Adesanya. But Izzy won’t even fight him, which is the most—It’s like picking on somebody constantly but at a distance. Like, I’m away from you.
“I’m not saying Adesanya’s scared, but Adesanya says, ‘I need my time. You said you were going to heavyweight 10 years ago. You’re finally doing it now, why can’t I have time?’ It’s very fascinating the way that these two interact. It’s nasty, but these rivalries tend to get nasty. Jones and I, it was not nice. They tend to get nasty, but that makes it fun for fans.”
Cormier and Jones fought twice and the pre-fight hype between the two got ugly both in interviews and whenever the two were in close proximity to one another. It was Jones who got the better of Cormier in a pair of high-profile bouts (with the second outing overturned to a no contest after Jones tested positive for banned substances), but Cormier still went on to claim titles at light heavyweight and heavyweight to cement his own legacy.
“DC” hopes that Adesanya does eventually pursue two-division champ status. Adesanya, 31, is unbeaten in 20 MMA bouts and is coming off of a dominant win over rival Paulo Costa at UFC 253. Cormier sees Adesanya as still evolving, which is a big reason why he believes Jones would want to fight him as soon as possible.
“I hope they fight at some point,” Cormier said. “I think it’s a very interesting matchup and I think that Adesanya is just improving every time out. So if I’m Jones I’m fighting him sooner than later if I can get him in there. Because remember, [Adesanya’s] only been here for a couple of years and now he looks like he’s gonna hold the belt forever.”
The verbal feud between Adesanya and Jones has become deeply personal, with both men taking shots at each other’s families and utilizing memes and harsh language to attack each other’s integrity.
Cormier understands why they’re doing it, even if it’s a war of words that is entirely different from the kind that he fought with Jones in the past.
“Adesanya’s one of those new internet kids,” Cormier said. “These internet kids don’t even need to verify something is true, they use it. There’s a rumor, they use it. Which is actually quite astounding because there was a rumor that Jones hid under that cage for years. Adesanya somehow got him to admit to doing it! He actually got him to admit to doing it! So there’s obviously a method to his madness and I thought when this started and he kept going after Jones, I was like I can only imagine how many plates or coffee mugs Jones broke in his house that night because he’s so mad. But then when he got him to admit that it was nuts.
“But Jones has had some good comebacks too. It’s been good. If you’re Israel Adesanya, you just don’t fight him because you know how mad he is. Can you imagine making this man as made as he is making him and just not fighting him because it doesn’t seem like Izzy’s ready to fight him right now but I think this is the matchup. I think it would be a fantastic fight.”
To make the fight happen, Cormier was asked to consider scenario where Adesanya goes up a division to fight current light heavyweight champ Jan Blachowicz and then potentially uses a victory there to lure Jones back to 205 pounds. However, Cormier questions whether Jones is even interested at making a difficult weight cut again if he has been bulking up for a move to heavyweight.
Cormier mentioned a 215-pound catchweight bout as a possibility, but also thinks that Adesanya is just as likely to stay at middleweight where he has the potential to establish his own legacy without Jones.
“What about the guy that’s next?” Cormier said. “What about Jared Cannonier, who has done so many spectacular things to earn a title fight? All of a sudden, the champion’s gone? That’s not really good for the sustainability of a weight class. So Izzy wanting to stay there and fight is great for the division, but fans—Which is what we are, you know we love the sport, we’re fans of the sport—fans want to see the next big thing and the next big thing is Izzy vs. Jones.
“Jared Cannonier is a dangerous guy if he can get past Robert Whittaker. I believe that it comes down to matchups. Robert Whittaker wins, do you make Whittaker vs. Adesanya 2 already or do you kind of start going, ‘Oh, now it’s time for the Jones fight?’ Cannonier is something fresh and something new, people can get excited about it.”