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Jon Jones Winning an ESPY for Fighter of the Year Is a Complete Joke

Jon Jones

Jon Jones will receive the ESPY for UFC Fighter of the Year in 2023 on Wednesday night.

Does that seem absurd to anybody else?

Jones is one of the finest fighters to ever participate in the Octagon, yet it appears that he won primarily to lend star power to ESPN’s annual summer spectacle. While the award is determined by internet voting, this was not a fair fight: Jones was set up to win.

Jones defeated Islam Makhachev, Amanda Nunes, and Leon Edwards in the fan vote. If you’re wondering why other fighters weren’t included, I’m with you.

When the candidates were disclosed, it seemed a foregone conclusion that Jones would win. That is exactly what occurred.

This is not meant to diminish any of the nominees’ achievements. Since the last ESPYs, Makhachev has defeated the #1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world, Alexander Volkanovski (who was conspicuously absent from the picks), and demolished Charles Oliveira to win the lightweight belt. Nunes was also incredibly successful, reclaiming the women’s bantamweight title from Julianna Pea before retiring with a one-sided victory over Irene Aldana.

Jones fought once this year, making his long-awaited heavyweight debut. Jones defeated Ciryl Gane in 124 seconds to capture the heavyweight title in what was more of a coronation than a fight. Edwards has stood out in particular. He defeated a seemingly unbeatable force in Kamaru Usman last August, ending his 19-fight win streak and capturing the welterweight title with one of the most memorable knockouts of all time with his famed head kick (which is a nominee for the Best Championship Performance award, recognizing his previous year’s feats). Edwards then won the rematch in March, a stunning performance against one of the greatest welterweights of all time. However, defeating Jones in a popularity contest is not a fight Edwards will win.

There is no need for a recount. This roster appears to have been compiled to put Jones in the best possible position to win, which would explain a glaring omission like Volkanovski. It would have been interesting to see if supporters would have voted for Volkanovski, perhaps because they valued his loss against Makhachev more than Jones’ win over Gane. However, there are probably bigger variables at work. Excluding the pandemic years, last year’s ESPYs were the least-watched since 2013 and had the lowest rating for the World Wide Leader since 2011.

And why wasn’t Israel Adesanya on the list? His triumph over Alex Pereira in April was a watershed event in his career.

There is a lot of speculation about Jones’ future, which will likely be explored on tonight’s show. Jones will defend his heavyweight title against Stipe Miocic in a must-see heavyweight title fight this November at Madison Square Garden. This is one of Jones’s most exciting battles, and a win would help solidify him as the greatest of all time.

There is no denying that Jones has a vast and prestigious record of accomplishments and distinctions. This year’s ESPY Award, however, should not be one of them.