Former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight champion, Rashad Evans, feels that his employers might be showing some signs of favoring current 205-pound kingpin, Jon Jones, heading into their upcoming title fight this weekend (April 21, 2012) at UFC 145 from the Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia.
And who could blame him, with the mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion making the questionable decision to sponsor "Bones" exclusively for the high-profile, emotionally-charged clash.
Jones, who will head into the main event fight with the UFC being his one and only sponsor, is the first fighter to ever be outright sponsored by the promotion.
So how did all of this come about? It's simple, in a non-conflict of interest kind of way.
"Bones" does not want to be a walking billboard when he heads into the Octagon to show the MMA world his skills, as well as the fact that the promotion views him as a good "company guy." Add it all up and it's apparently a match made in MMA sponsorship heaven.
At least that's what Jones stated during last week's UFC 145 conference-call:
"For this fight, I have a goal, I've had a goal of being sponsored by Nike for many, many years. Part of our strategy to try and make that happen one day is to not be a billboard, and not just be sponsored by TapouT one week, and Affliction one week, and then MusclePharm next week, and all these random companies. If you realize, I try to look for relationships with companies, long lasting relationships with companies. So a part of my brand is to keep it clean. Less is more in my opinion. When Form Athletics went down pretty much every company in the business was looking for an opportunity to work with me, and I was really honored just to be wanted like that. I thought it was really awesome, it was a real honor. We came up with a strategy to keep it clean and be sponsored by the UFC itself. I'm glad the UFC wanted to work with me as well, and I think that they trust that I'll never make them look bad. You never have to worry about me with a DWI (driving while under the influence) or doing something crazy. I think I'm a good company guy. The UFC asks me to do anything and I always do it, and I never tell them no for anything. I've had to do more marketing than any other fighter because I say no to absolutely nothing. I don't think most champs are like that. I think they realized I'm a company guy and they decided to sponsor me. They put in the deal that if any mainstream companies come after this win that they will let me go, and I think that's awesome."
Evans took the news all in stride. He was not flustered, opting instead to take the high road and offer an indifferent response. "Suga" mentioned on "The MMA Hour" earlier today (April 16, 2012) that the sponsorship won't affect the outcome of the fight; however, he does feel that the UFC might be showing some favoritism.
Check it out:
"I guess it is what it is. It seems they got their guy that they're going to get behind, I guess. I can't really say too much about that. I just got to go in there and do what I need to do. I can't really worry about that. I can't really worry about who they favor or who they may like. It doesn't change anything. If they're sponsoring him, it may seem that way (that UFC is favoring Jones). But you know, honestly, it doesn't matter if they favor him or not. They have guys they want to get behind, so if they want to get behind him, that's on them. It doesn't bother me though."
With all the build up and marketing poured into building the hype around this fight, it's certainly odd that the promotion made a first-of-its-kind decision to draw a line in the sand and back one fighter over another.
Unless, of course, it's much ado about nothing and will be the rule, rather than the exception, when a major marquee pay-per-view (PPV) event draws near.