Rising star Israel Adesanya captured the UFC interim middleweight title with a thrilling win over Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 236 in Atlanta on Saturday and continued to draw comparisons to light heavyweight champion Jon Jones with his flashy kickboxing and dynamic personality.
Neither fighter is thrilled with being linked to the other.
Jones escalated a feud that has been building over the past several months on social media by taking to Twitter immediately after Adesanya’s win.
“You can believe the hype if you want to,” Jones wrote in a since-deleted post. “I’ve seen all I had to see.”
Adesanya declined comment Saturday on Jones, saying he didn’t want all the headlines to be about the light heavyweight champion on the biggest night of his own career.
He didn’t stay quiet for long.
Adesanya appeared Monday on “Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show” on ESPN-Plus to share his feelings on Jones, who he believes is trying to draw him into a fight in the near future before he gains more experience and becomes more dangerous.
“I don’t like bullies,” Adesanya said. “I detest bullies. So he’s going to get this work, but not until I am ready to give him this work. I could fight him right now, but I want to fight him when I know I can (expletive) him up. I’m still learning.”
Adesanya wasn’t done going after Jones, who he used several expletives to describe. The 29-year-old former world champion kickboxer, who was born in Nigeria and moved to New Zealand at 13, believes Jones is attacking him because he represents what Jones could have been had his indiscretions outside the cage not interfered with his career.
“I’m everything he wished he could’ve been when he first came into the UFC,” Adesanya said. “He wants to be Nike-sponsored and praise God, then (he does cocaine). He was crashing and (doing) steroids and hiding under the cage (from sample collectors) and all that (expletive). I was a fan. At UFC 94, I watched him (expletive) up Stephan Bonnar, and I was like, ‘Holy (expletive), this mother(expletive) is amazing. But he just came across like a piece of (expletive).”
Jones is scheduled to defend his belt against Thiago Santos on July 6 at T-Mobile Arena. Adesanya’s win sets him up for a unification bout against middleweight champ Robert Whittaker, likely in Australia in the second half of 2019.
Poirier ready for lightweight champ
Dustin Poirier got past featherweight champ Max Holloway in Saturday’s other title bout to claim the interim lightweight belt and set up a unification fight with champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.
The lightweight champion took to Twitter to congratulate Poirier and extend an invitation for a September bout, which is likely to take place in Abu Dhabi.
While Conor McGregor insinuated on Twitter he would be next in line for Nurmagomedov in a rematch of their contentious October bout, UFC president Dana White said Poirier had earned the title shot.
Poirier believes he has the recipe to hand the lightweight champion the first loss of his career.
“Grit, determination, the right amount of crazy and self-belief,” Poirier said. “Everything it takes to be a champion, I have that.”
New PPV process causes issues
Saturday night marked the UFC’s first pay-per-view event under a deal making ESPN-Plus the exclusive distributor for consumer buys and social media was cluttered with complaints about the ordering process.
White said the glitches were simply a matter of working through a new process and things would get better moving forward.
”This deal came out of nowhere,” White said. “We were having trouble getting a deal done with regular pay-per-view providers and it gave us the idea to look elsewhere. We did, we ended up striking a deal very quickly with ESPN and everybody had to work fast to get this thing done. Tonight wasn’t perfect, but we’ll get things fixed.”
Customers were asked to order the event through their computer and the stream would then populate their devices, though ESPN and the UFC expect consumers can order through the app for future events.
■ April 20: UFC Fight Night 149 (ESPN-Plus), St. Petersburg, Russia
■ April 27: UFC on ESPN 3 (ESPN), Miami
■ April 27: Bellator 220 (Paramount), San Jose, Calif.
■ May 3: Invicta FC: Phoenix Rising Series 1 (Fight Pass), Kansas City, Kan.
■ May 4: UFC Fight Night 150 (ESPN-Plus), Ottawa, Ontario, Canada