By now, every MMA fan has heard about the parting of ways between Rashad Evans and Greg Jackson's camp in Albuquerque. Rashad has said he feels disrespected by Jackson and by Jon Jones. I have to say, it's a little puzzling to me how one-sided the hate seems to be. Did Jackson really turn on Rashad? Did Bones really betray Evans? Is something rotten in Denmark, or is this just business?
I was particularly confused after watching Ariel Helwani's interview with Greg Jackson. Jackson looked as conflicted as he could have looked. He didn't take sides. He actually looked like he'd been punched in the stomach. He went out of his way to say that he would corner neither fighter because he didn't want to choose sides. Jackson professed his friendship and love for Rashad, and went on to talk about his desire to stay out of it altogether. When Helwani informed Jackson of Rashad's comments about leaving Jackson and his camp, he looked devastated, almost like he was going to cry (and I'm not hating on him for that one bit).
Afterwards, Rashad spoke out to anyone who would listen and/or would interview him. He talked about how Jackson is the one who caused this by bringing Jones in in the first place. He said he never wanted Jones in the same camp. Why? Did he feel threatened? Turns out, he probably should have. At the end of the day, these situations aren't really 'caused' by anyone; they just happen. It is what it is. Jon Jones is already a great fighter. There's no telling just how far he'll go, or what his legacy will be when it's all said and done. No one gave him anything. He earned it in the gym. He earned it in training. He earned it in the ring against some very tough opponents. No one gave him the belt...he took it. Jones has the potential to be one of the greatest fighters (if not the greatest fighter) the UFC has ever seen.
So Greg Jackson is supposed to stop working with guy because Rashad was there first? If that's the case, why is this the first time it's been a problem for Rashad? Why didn't he split from him a long time ago? It just doesn't add up.
It reminds a lot of the old situation between Tito and Chuck, when Tito was champ and said he wouldn't fight Chuck because they were "friends". It's not on the same level because the disparity of talent between opponents is not as vast. But make no mistake, there IS a disparity.
That's why the internet outcry came instantly and loudly. No one wanted to see Rashad and Jones. Maybe the fans are "disrespecting" Rashad too, but the truth is that the majority of people don't believe Evans can beat Jones. I don't. Not for a second.
So what does it really come down to? Is it jealousy? Is it pride? You remember what Marsellus Wallace said about pride, right?
Rashad can say he's a man of principle. His example would probably be that he never fought Jardine. I feel like that's disingenuous. Evans never had to avoid fighting Jardine. No one ever brought up that fight. That matchup was never at risk of occurring, because Jardine was never really on Evans' level as a fighter. No one wanted that fight. It's real easy to say you'd never fight a guy who you know you'd never have to.
Evans went on to say that he doesn't believe the UFC would fire a fighter for refusing a fight. He may be right. A fighter may not get fired for it, but look at the track record for guys who have refused Dana White, or who have been difficult to work with. Ask Jon Fitch if it's a good idea to be stubborn. Ask Josh Barnett how smart it is to cross Dana. If White has proven anything, it's that he can be just as powerful an enemy as he can be a friend.
Jon Jones has a wife and two kids. I'm not trying to make him out to be a dig ditcher or a burger flipper at McDonald's. The guy is not struggling. That being said, he has a family to protect. He's a fighter. He gets paid to fight guys. If Rashad doesn't want to fight him, that's fine, but how can he begrudge Jones for merely fulfilling his contractual obligations. Did Jones look excited about fighting Rashad? I thought he looked the complete opposite. Maybe I'm just not grasping the situation properly, but I earnestly do not feel Jones has done anything wrong. The sad thing about this whole scenario is that Rashad Evans is a very good fighter and fairly likeable guy. He's got charisma. He can frequently be seen on ESPN's MMA Live, and does a solid job. Unfortunately, he's very emotional, and maybe even a little sensitive. If he keeps taking everything so personally, and constantly assuming Dana White is out to get him, he's going to put himself in the company of guys like Tito Ortiz. It's a fickle game, and a small window. Rashad would be well served to not squander the time he has.
Finally, this was a matchup that to happen. Jones was just honest and bold enough to cut to the chase. It wasn't avoidable and he just was first to admit it. The best guys have to fight the best guys. What would the NBA be like if Kobe refused to play in games against his buddy Carmelo? What if Ovechkin respected Crosby too much to compete against him. Fighting is a different kind of sport, but it's a sport nonetheless. The game is different now, and Evans is going to have to adapt.
By Kevin Haggerty of MMA Buffet
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