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Jon Jones beats out Israel Adesanya for 2023 ESPY award nomination

UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya was campaigning for “Best Comeback Athlete” — an ESPY nomination that eventually went to longtime rival and UFC heavyweight champion Jon Jones.

UFC 285: Jones v Gane Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

ESPY stands for Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly.

That excellence was reflected by UFC champions Jon Jones, Leon Edwards, Islam Makhachev, and Amanda Nunes (retired) during the eligible nomination period for ESPN’s 31st annual award show, scheduled for Weds., July 12 at 8 p.m. ET at Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

All four combatants were nominated for “Best UFC Fighter” during this week’s nominations.

Jones is also nominated for “Best Comeback Athlete” after winning the UFC heavyweight title against Ciryl Gane at UFC 285 last March, his first fight since 2020. “Bones” is up against Jamal Murray (who helped lead Denver Nuggets to the NBA title), Alyssa Thomas (2022 WNBA Comeback Player of the Year), and Justin Verlander (2022 AL Cy Young and AL Comeback Player of the Year).

Jones has been nominated multiple times over the years.

Reigning middleweight champion Israel Adesanya was campaigning for multiple ESPY award nominations after finally avenging his trio of losses to Alex Pereira, much to the chagrin of fickle fight fans, but ultimately came up empty for 2023. No doubt Jones will be celebrating that fact in light of his ongoing war of words with “The Last Stylebender.”

In addition, Edwards is nominated for “Best Championship Performance” for defeating Kamaru Usman and winning the UFC welterweight title at UFC 286. “Rocky” is up against Nikola Jokic (2023 NBA Finals MVP for Denver Nuggets), Lionel Messi (Man of the Match at 2022 World Cup final), and Rose Zhang (winner of 2023 Mizuho Americas Open).

This year’s nominations for “Best Boxer” include Gervonta Davis, Devin Haney, Claressa Shields, and Shakur Stevenson. Boxing and UFC were separated from “Best Fighter” into separate categories (Best Boxer and Best UFC Fighter) back in 2019.

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