In the turbulent world of professional sports, what you say in the media may not only change the perception the audience has of you but it may also change the relationships you have with those around you. This is the case between Jon Jones and his former teammate Rashad Evans.
After winning The Ultimate Fighter reality show tournament on November 5, 2005, Rashad joined Greg Jackson’s Submission Fighting camp to train for his UFC career. After winning the title in 2008 and losing it in 2009 it was in this gym where he made his way up the light heavyweight rankings for the second time and was scheduled to fight the champion Mauricio Rua for the title. Unfortunately, he’d have to wait while Rua recovered from an injury. It was around this time that fellow light heavyweight competitor, Jon Jones, was moving his way up the rankings as well.
Jones moved to Greg Jackson’s camp in mid 2009 to prepare for his fight with Matt Hamill. According to Rashad, Greg asked him if he’d have a problem with Jon joining the team and he said, yes. Evans claimed that “that was the type of guy I wanted to fight, not train with.” Mr. Jackson claims the opposite.
Many fighters in the sport refuse to fight teammates for obvious reasons like they know so much about each others’ skills and usually have a personal relationship with them. Teammates spar against each other on a daily basis and may know about certain advantages that other fighters wouldn’t.
In 2010, both Jones and Evans were quoted saying that they’d never fight each other. It would go against their training camp’s policy. Jon claimed, “There’s not many guys that I can relate to like Rashad, and preparing to do physical damage to him just doesn’t add up to me.” and “That would be like fighting my brother.”
Fortunately for the UFC and its fans, it only took a few months and a few short interviews to change both of their opinions. After multiple interviews claiming that he wouldn’t fight Rashad, in March of 2011, Jon claimed that he respects UFC President Dana White and if he wanted the fight to happen, it will happen. Feeling disrespected, Rashad said “I’m no punk” and agreed to fight his former teammate. From that point on it has been one of the greatest rivalries of the sport. When speaking on the topic of hearing Jon’s comment, Evans claimed that he “felt so fucking utterly disrespected.” and that he places much of the blame on Greg Jackson for bringing Jon on the team.
When the time finally came for Rashad to get his title shot at Mauricio, it was reported that Evans had suffered from a knee injury in training camp and could not fight. This led to Jones being publicly offered the fight after soundly defeating Ryan Bader in early 2011. On March 19, 2011, Jon Jones dominated Shogun Rua, making him the youngest champion in UFC history at age 23. Immediately after the fight, in an interview with Ariel Helwani, Rashad said that he’s leaving Greg Jackson’s training camp to start his own in Florida.
Rashad proceeded to take shots at Jones on Twitter and in interviews calling him a fake and a “swagger jacker.” From this point on it appeared that their friendship had completely dissipated. Jon said in interviews that he dominated Rashad in practice on a daily basis but didn’t finish him out of respect.
“We fought each other in practice,” Jones explained. “A finish has been possible several times and it has always been me finishing him. I never did it out of respect that he was the elder of the school. It’s against protocol in a way. Some people would do it but I believe in tradition. He has a lot to study. I have a lot to study, but I get to study[ing] more in-depth. He gets to study[ing] and gets a headache.”
Rashad claimed that he went easy on Jones because he was simulating Bader. He also went to Twitter with these comments: “Jon Jones must be high, because I remember him looking at me, begging me to let him up because he couldn’t get back to his feet in training.”
Insults continued to go back and forth in and out of the media. The two fighters apparently faced each other in a Las Vegas Night club and exchanged words. According to Rashad, during the conversation, Jones proclaimed himself as the best light heavyweight in the world and that he’d “destroy” Rashad. Rashad couldn’t help but laugh since this was the first time he’d seen Jon speak in this manner. Until the recent weeks, Jon had always been a humble person and fighter and had always given respect where it was due. It was very apparent that their relationship and Jon’s character had changed.
Since then, a bout between the two has been planned multiple times but hasn’t materialized because of injuries and scheduling issues. Both fighters have fought twice and now are officially set to fight on April 21, 2012 at UFC 145 in Atlanta.
Jones is the huge favorite in this fight and should be favored over anyone in the division. They’re both elite wrestlers but Jon has the physical advantage. He towers over Rashad who’s 5’11” at 6’4” and has a 9 inch reach advantage. Jon also has a more devastating fighting style than Rashad. He’s very unconventional and will throw elbows, fists and legs unexpectedly. His elbows are deadly and he has the speed to use them. His longer limbs will also give him the ability to control Evans in the wrestling game.
Rashad usually uses his wrestling and lands some pretty good shots when he’s close. Rashad’s style is generally to smother you and win by decision. This won’t work against Jones.
I see Jon finishing Evans in the first or second round but no matter what happens, we’re in for a great fight and a lot of entertainment.