“Jon Jones and Izzy, they’ve got this weird thing going back and forth,” Sonnen mused recently on The MMA Hour. “They’re not going to fight. They’re separated not by one weight class, they’re [separated] by two weight classes. Well, wrong — there’s still a fight going on. They both want to claim that they’re the best and they’re both getting a lot of people to say that they are. That’s how this is going to be settled through history. It’s going to be settled by the people in a popular opinion.
“Izzy’s beating him. 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, I’m telling you now, and he’s long put Jon Jones in the dust. Jon Jones has never played that game — 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.”
Adesanya and Jones are two of the most decorated current UFC titleholders. Adesanya is a two-time middleweight champion with five defenses of his belt over his two title reigns, while Jones is the most accomplished light heavyweight in UFC history. Jones defended his light heavyweight belt 11 times before moving up a division and capturing the heavyweight strap this past March with a first-round stoppage of Ciryl Gane at UFC 285.
Jones has dipped his toes into the promotional side of MMA at various points in his career, most notably during his multi-year rivalry with Daniel Cormier, but not in the same way as Adesanya. From his walkouts to his post-fight histrionics and everything in between, “The Last Stylebender” has embraced the theatrical nature of the fight game. He did so again at UFC 290 when he faced off with his next title challenger, Dricus Du Plessis, in a heated post-fight exchange that became one of the most-discussed storylines coming out of the event.
For better or worse, Adesanya has campaigned to make his biggest fights possible happen during his time in the UFC. Sonnen can’t say the same about Jones.
“Look, you’ve got a sport going on here, and Jon Jones, he’s great at the sport. But then you have the fight business, and that’s a game that not very many guys play,” Sonnen said. “Izzy plays it, Conor plays it. Jon does not play it. And so it’s just, it’s a different level, it’s a different thing that’s going on with these guys. Like, if Jon watched this piece right now, he wouldn’t know what I’m saying. ‘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.
“Those are the guys that can make a show by not even competing. And that’s where Adesanya’s at. Jon Jones missed the fight with [Francis] Ngannou because they botched that spot. There was ways to make that, you could make that fight happen. ... Then all sudden one of them’s not under contract and Jon gets pissed, he wants to fight him. Well, you had your chance dum-dum, but you’re too busy doing the sport and not focusing on the business.”
“You could have made that fight,” Sonnen continued. “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.”