Ben Askren is not convinced by Jon Jones' arguments.
Earlier this week, Jones made his presence known on social media after Francis Ngannou signed with PFL, the lineal UFC heavyweight champion's decision. Jones scoffed at Ngannou's choice and questioned how he could refer to himself as "The Baddest Man on the Planet."
It's worth noting that Jones had taken the UFC title in place of Ngannou, seizing the opportunity to move up to the heavyweight division once Ngannou left the organization as the champion. However, Jones' debut in the heavyweight category came after a three-year hiatus, during which Ngannou actively pursued a fight with him. This is precisely where Askren finds the issue.
“To me it was simple, and why I thought, ‘Wow, this is really weird, and almost hypocritical,’ is Jon chose to be inactive for three years,” Askren said on Daniel Cormier’s YouTube channel. “He chose not to fight. I don’t care what Jon does, right? He chose not to fight. Three years. Three years, he chooses not to fight. Francis is in the UFC pretty much the entirety of that three years, and we’ve seen other people go up weight classes. ‘Stylebender’ [Israel Adesanya] did it and lost to Jan [Blachowicz] and went back to 185, so we’ve seen other people do it. So he had plenty of opportunity to fight Francis Ngannou.
.“So now if Francis Ngannou wants to say, ‘I’m the baddest man on the planet,’ I think he should be able to. Now, can Jon argue he is also? Sure. But Jon can’t say, ‘You can’t do it,’ because Jon didn’t fight him for three years.”
Askren's argument holds merit. The UFC had been considering a matchup between Jones and Ngannou as early as 2020. However, the main obstacles to booking the fight originated primarily from Jones' camp. It all started with Dana White's claim that Jones demanded Deontay Wilder's level of compensation for the bout. Meanwhile, during Jones' absence, Ngannou actively fought three times. He secured the heavyweight title with a devastating knockout victory over Stipe Miocic and successfully defended it against Ciryl Gane, all while competing with a torn ACL and MCL. Eventually, Ngannou's dispute with the UFC reached a boiling point.
Askren said he’d pick Jones to beat Ngannou but explains that while Ngannou was knocking guys out en route to a UFC title, Jones was on the sidelines since February 2020.
“I would choose Jon. I think Jon likely is the best guy,” Askren said. “So my point of contention is, Jon was inactive while Francis was in the UFC and the champion. Jon could have said, ‘Let’s fight because I want to prove I am, without a shadow of a doubt, the baddest dude,’ and it didn’t happen. Francis can still leave, they never fought, and if he wants to say it for a little while, he can say it. I’m not mad at him.”