UFC interim middleweight champion Israel Adesanya has struck back at superstar Jon Jones' criticism of his win over Kelvin Gastelum, adding further momentum to the possibility of a "super fight" between the two.
Adesanya had exchanged jabs with the light-heavyweight champion leading into his show-stealing victory at UFC 236 in Atlanta on Sunday (NZT), after Jones - widely considered one of MMA's all-time greats - stated he "had a feeling" it was inevitable that the two would meet in the Octagon.
In response, 'The Last Stylebender' commented "he'd killed one GOAT, I'm hunting the next" – a reference to his win over legendary Brazilian Anderson Silva. Jones was quick to hit back, saying he'd "make you call me daddy by the third".
He followed that up with another barb after Adesanya's hard-fought victory on Sunday, saying he was unimpressed with the Kiwi's 'Fight of the Night' win over "a short stubby wrestler".
On Tuesday, Adesanya took his offensive to another level, taking aim at Jones' history of cocaine use and accusing the American of trying to leverage his spotlight for his own gain.
"He's a c**t," Adesanya told The MMA Hour. "I say that because he's picking the time when I'm supposed to get the most shine to come at me, because he's irrelevant.
"No one really cares about him. I'm everything he wished he was, I'm everything he wished he would have been.
"Like 'Ooooh, I want to thank God' and meanwhile he’s in the back [makes snorting noise] and the, hiding under a cage to avoid USADA."
- Whittaker eyes 'hittable' Adesanya
- 'I was willing to die in there' - Adesanya
- Social media reacts to Adesanya victory
One of the sport's most troubled talents, 'Bones' Jones has been stripped of his light-heavyweight title a staggering three times for positive drug tests. He returned from a 15-month suspension last October, beating Alexander Gustafsson to win the belt back again. He defended it against Anthony Smith in March.
"[Jones] literally just reminds me of what I've hated most in life and that's bullies," Adesanya said on ESPN's MMA Show. "I've had them through high school, coming up.
"Literally he's a jock, he's a c**k and he's a c*nt."
While Adesanya admits that the fight will happen, his focus is on working his way through the rest of the middleweight division's contenders first to cement his own legacy.
"Jacare [Souza], Yoel [Romero], [Chris] Weidman, Jared [Cannonier] - these are guys still in line," he said. "So, chill motherf**cker Jones.
"Let me get through the middleweights first and at least defend my belt a few times. I want to get through all of the top middleweights at least once and then I’ll move up.
"I've been bullied my whole life, so when I peak, he's going to get this."
Adesanya already has his next opponent locked in. He'll face Robert Whittaker in a middleweight title unification bout that's pencilled in for August, pending the Australian's recovery from hernia surgery.
Meanwhile, Jones will defend his championship against Thiago Santos in July.
Experienced in the heavier divisions, the 29-year-old Adesanya says he's more than willing to make the step up to take on Jones in a "super fight", where both fighters' belts would be on the line.
"I'll come up. I like the sound of two belts, but he knows I'm getting better each fight.
"I'm only a year and some change in this game. Imagine where I’m going to be in two years.
"He's trying to get this fight early, so he has a better chance of beating me, but, I'm player one and I have the controller.That fight will happen, but it will happen on my terms.
"Let me just beat all the top middleweights in the division just once, then I’ll move up for a superfight."