UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones (L) will defend his title against Rashad Evans (R) at UFC 145 in Atlanta, Georgia on Apr. 21, 2012, in a heated grudge match to end all grudge matches.
Some people just don't like each other. Others just can't hang out together. Then there are those who can't even be in the same room together.
Such is the case regarding Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones and the man he will defend his title against at UFC 145 in Atlanta, Georgia, on Apr. 21, 2012, Rashad Evans.
But, this wasn't always so. In fact, it was quite the opposite. The two were former training partners together at famed trainer Greg Jackson's gym in Albuquerque, New Mexico. They even referred to each other as "brothers" at one point.
To discuss where it all went wrong, as well as their upcoming grudge match, "Bones" and "Suga" sat down with Jon Anik on "Ultimate Insider" for an intense -- and seemingly uncomfortable (for Jones, anyway) half-hour of back-and-forth verbal volleys.
And it was just as good as you would think it would be.
Jones began by responding to a question regarding whether or not he seriously thought he'd ever fight Evans when he first started training with him at Jackson's MMA:
"No. You know, I knew we were both top guys, and I knew it was kind of a possibility, but I really set it aside. I really ignored it. I was really honored to be a part of the program."
That was how things started; innocent enough. But the rivalry became a reality when Jones won the belt, by defeating Maurico Rua at UFC 128 in Newark, New Jersey, on March 19, 2011. It set the stage for a match up against his stablemate, causing Evans to pack up his things and leave Jackson's MMA.
According to Jones, the drama was avoidable:
"Greg, he said, basically, Rashad is always welcome back. You know, Rashad will always be like a brother to me. You know, he spoke so highly of Rashad. On numerous occasions, he really did everything he could to keep some type of rapport. On the other hand, you have Rashad, who's bashing the program and the history --"
It was here that Evans' fangs came out. In his mind, a correction was in order:
"--The history? I made that history! What are you talking about? I'm the one who helped make that history! You're the one who came into it. You came into it! Don't talk about the history, when you have no roots in the history! Don't talk about -- I helped make Greg Jackson! I helped make him the reason why you even wanted to come there and train. So, don't talk to me about the history of the team, bro! Don't talk to me about the history of the program because, motherf*cker, I made that program!"
Whether it was for the right reasons or not, Evans is gone and isn't coming back anytime soon. Jones stated that he's been more than happy to fill in the gap that was vacated by his one-time friend:
"What Rashad doesn't realize, and I bet he's gonna interrupt me, because it's gonna be true, there's more to Jackson's than the four or five or six UFC fighters that's in the program. It's the kids who aren't in the UFC. It's the kids who don't have anything to offer. Who don't have money in the bank. Who don't have popularity or a following. These are the kids that love me. I am their team leader, their team captain. They appreciate the person that I am. They appreciate my loyalty to the team. That team is MY team now."
The conversation turned back to the topic of loyalty and how Evans felt betrayed by Greg Jackson. According to Rashad, Jones should feel uneasy, having witnessed the events that have transpired:
"That's the big thing about it. That's why I feel so disrespected. It's like, 'So, now Greg, you're gonna go against me? You're gonna go against me, right? You gonna go against Georges St. Pierre? Oh, okay. You gonna bring in Carlos Condit? He helped make you too. So where does your loyalty lie?' So, if you're gonna go against the people that helped make you, and I was somebody like in Jon's position, I'd be like, 'Man, if he'll go against some people that were with him, to help him get his notoriety, to help him get where he is, then damn, what would he do to me?'"
At this point in the conversation, the two fighters began engaging in a constant bickering and talking over the other, offering reasons why each felt that they would emerge victorious in their upcoming bout.
Finally, Jones was able to seize control of the floor to announce why he believes he will be the last man standing:
"I tell you to your face. Rashad's way of winning this fight is his huge right hand or to try to get me down, round after round. I know the ways that I could lose this fight. I'm not naive to my weaknesses. But at the same time, I'm a wrestler too. I don't think he realizes that. And I have WAY more technique on my feet. It's only getting sharper and faster and cleaner. So, you say what you want to say and how you know that you're gonna beat me, but trust me, i know the way I can lose, and I'm training for that. You don't think I'm training extensively in my bottom game? My takedown defense? You don't know if I'm gonna shoot on you or if it's gonna be a fake shot. You just don't know what you're getting into. Say what you want, but I know, just as much as you think that you know."
Not to be outdone, Evans had an answer. He believes that he will be able to manipulate Jones and make him play his game...and that's putting it nicely:
"Jon, you just showed me exactly why you're gonna lose. Because you think you know. You don't think all my opponents watch me fight and say, 'Ah, Rashad, he does this. Oh he does that.' There's such a difference when you're in there with me, when you're in there with me, I can get you to 'skip to my Lou.' And you will 'skip to my Lou.' You're gonna do exactly what I want you to do."
After several minutes of heated bickering, the discussion turned back to the early days of the relationship between the two men. Evans stated that he has always been a fan of Jones, but that he feels his reign will soon come to an end:
"Yeah, I mean, there's a part of me that will always go for Jon. Every fight that he's been in, I've always rooted for Jon. No matter what. Always rooted for him. And I just say what I say about him being fake, because Jon is not the person that he says he is or that he tries to pretend to be. He's setting himself up for a fall that I don't think he can take right now."
The topic of image was presented, specifically in reference to Jones and how his public perception has possibly changed within the last year. He's aware of the negative transformation, but he blames Evans for a large portion of how things have gone down:
"I do feel as though it's something that was Rashad's image, and that has kind of been thrown at me. You know, it's kind of like, 'I'm not the baddest guy. Jon's a bad guy too.' You know, I remember Rashad started all the way back on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) with the gyrating and dancing and showboating in front of people. You know, Matt Hughes, somebody who's greatly respected, was one of the first to call it out. 'Hey, this kid's a little on the cocky side. Who is this guy?' You know, you got a guy like me, I treat people with the utmost respect. That's a big part of who I am. And as an athlete, yeah I have a chip on my shoulder. It's completely two different people. Jonathan Jones is a great person, and I'll say that about myself. 'Bones' Jones? Yeah. He's a little high on himself. And I should be. That's why I compete on the level I compete at, and I train and believe that way."
Not only does "Bones" feel that he gets a bum wrap about who he is, he also feels like Evans is the real villain. He didn't pull any punches:
"I have no sympathy for Rashad, whatsoever. I remember you leaving Greg Jackson's and saying, 'Oh, I need a team that can focus on just me.' You know, 'I need something that's more based around me.' And now you created 'The Blackzilians.' I say it all the time. There's no 'i' in team. There's no 'i' in Jackson's. There's 'i' in 'Blackzilians.' so, I really look at you as fake. I look at you as arrogant. I look at you as selfish. I look at you as self-centered. I think you're biggest thing is to try and reflect it off of me, and make me seem like I'm everything that you're feeling inside your heart."
Jones believes he isn't anything like Evans. He resents the comparison, and went into detail about the things that separate them as people:
"Your proof is in your lifestyle. I've done nothing wrong but follow my dream. I haven't insulted anyone. I haven't disrespected anyone. I haven't been a traitor to anybody. I came to this team. I took care of the coaches. I took care of the team. I kept winning. I kept getting better. And Rashad was like, 'Uh oh. I better go start my own team.' There's no sympathy for that."
There are two sides to every story, and in reference to the tale of Evans leaving Jackson's to start a new camp, he was determined to make his side known:
"That's the funny thing about it. That's the part where you're immature and you're young. See, I would have never fought you. In a million years, I would have never fought you. I was gonna fight at 185. I was gonna do dream match-ups. I was only gonna try and help you become the best."
At this, Jones and Evans became heated and began to dig up the details of "who said what" and who they said it to. After they finally cooled down a little bit, Evans tried to get in one last dig:
"The truth of the matter is you did want to fight me and we're fighting. That's just the bottom line. You can't be the champ unless you beat me. You got the belt. You got the belt, but you ain't the champ."
That's certainly an interesting way of viewing things. Sure, Evans is the top contender, as well as the guy that most fans feel "Bones' needs to beat to cement his legacy (whether that is true or not), but the champion doesn't feel like he has anything to prove to anyone...certainly not to Rashad:
"You had this long, ugly fight with 'Rampage' where you almost got finished. I finished 'Rampage,' but I'm not the champ. Lyoto (Machida) knocked you out silly. I just finished Lyoto, and I'm not the champ. I feel like the champ in every way. I feel like I'm gonna do the same exact thing to you in April."
This fight just keeps getting more interesting. As the heat continues to rise and the sparks keep flying, MMAmania.com will keep you updated on all the latest news, trash-talk and rumors as the drama unfolds.
Hopefully, it's as good as this.