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Jon Jones: Israel Adesanya ‘scared’ to fight me, heavyweight title could be next

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Jon Jones has a title defense coming up this weekend against Dominick Reyes, but it’s nearly impossible for him to escape questions about what’s next.

One of the most dominant fighters in UFC history, the 32-year-old light heavyweight has wiped out almost every contender in his own division, which is why middleweight champion Israel Adesanya and heavyweight king Stipe Miocic are a constant topic during interviews.

Jones definitely has heard more about Adesanya as of late. The two engaged in a very public war of words with the current 185-pound champion, who’s readying for his own fight on March 7 against Yoel Romero at UFC 248.

For all the talk about a potential showdown with “The Last Stylebender,” Jones isn’t convinced Adesanya really wants anything to do with the fight.

“At the end of the day, this isn’t K-1,” Jones said of Adesanya’s kickboxing background. “This isn’t whatever league he used to fight in. I’ve watched him stepping over here, and literally, I’ve watched him with his legs stiff. His swagger is exciting to the fans, but I know a thousand people like him. I grew up with people like him. He doesn’t impress me the way he impresses everyone else.

“He’s scared. That’s all it is. When he says you’ve got to respect the game or the game will humble you, he’s talking about not fighting me now or me beating his ass cause he’s scared. When you let a fighter like me know that you’re not prepared to fight me today and you wish you had another year to prepare and all that sh*t, it lets me know your mental state. That’s all I need to know.”

Adesanya’s argument against fighting Jones in the near term has largely come from a desire to defend the middleweight title several times before making the move up a division to challenge for a second UFC championship.

If that’s what Adesanya is claiming when hitting the pause button on the champion vs. champion fight, Jones isn’t buying it.

“If he feels he’s not cut out for the challenge now, if he honestly thinks I’m going to be somehow a weaker version of myself next year, he’s sadly mistaken,” Jones said. “I’m just now figuring out training camps and figuring out different ways of healing and recovery and all these things. My teammates are getting stronger. I’m only a purple belt in jiu-jitsu.

“If he thinks I’m getting slower and weaker, he’s sadly mistaken. He’s scared today. He’s made that very clear to the public. Nothing’s going to change next year.”

If Adesanya isn’t up for the challenge, Jones knows another champion who might be.

After teasing a move to heavyweight for several years, the UFC’s top ranked pound-for-pound fighter says that if all goes well against Reyes on Saturday night, a showdown with Stipe Miocic could be waiting in the wings.

“It’s definitely a possibility,” Jones told MMA Fighting when asked about potentially facing Miocic next. “One thing I know for sure, going up to heavyweight would inspire me on a different level, just because there would be so many elements that I’m unfamiliar with.

“Gaining weight. Staying lean and strong. Mainly the weight gaining and understanding how I’m going to perform, and how I’m going to move at the higher weight class.”

Those challenges would add a different layer to his preparation, but that’s what excites Jones about a fight with Miocic, who is a two-time UFC heavyweight champion with more defenses of his belt than any other fighter in the history of the division.

“I’ve been going against heavyweights my whole life,” Jones said. “My brother’s one of the best heavyweights in New York state wrestling history. I would wrestle him every day in high school. I’ve been getting my ass kicked by my older brother my whole life. I used to train with Travis Browne, Andrei Arlovski, (and) so many great heavyweights for years. I’m very comfortable going against guys who are bigger and stronger than me.

“I guess all the questions I would have to answer are how am I going to do with the weight gain and all that type of stuff. There’s just a lot of factors that I’m not familiar with that would probably motivate me to push it hard and give my best energy.”