Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones and his real-life antagonist, Rashad Evans, will step inside the Octagon on Saturday night (April 21, 2012) in the UFC 145 main event and finally let their fists, rather than their lips, fly.
And to hear them tell it, it's not going to be just an ordinary mixed martial arts (MMA) match. On the contrary, "Bones" and "Suga" will crawl into the eight-walled cage at the Philips Arena, squat in their corners -- maybe even tweak their nipples -- and then charge into battle. More than one year of emotion, trash talk and anger will fuel their duel, with the momentum for each fighter swinging like a pendulum for a jaw-dropping 25 minutes or until one man can no longer continue.
UFC President Dana White will grin and giggle. Fans will leap from their seats and foolishly embrace. MMAmania.com servers will crash and I will get an instant raise.
These, Maniacs, are the great expectations that weigh heavy on the shoulders of Jones and Evans as we head into this weekend. And we didn't manufacture them, but rather the personal rift between the former "friends" and training partners at Jackson-WinkleJohn MMA -- now sworn enemies -- has been rammed down our throats at every turn.
I can recite the tumultuous timeline in my sleep if required. However, it isn't.
That's because the UFC has put all its marketing muscle behind this showdown, taking us behind the scenes with slick "Primetime" specials, giving us a "Countdown" to their date with destiny and watching them squirm on the set of "Ultimate Insider."
Hell, the UFC even made the odd decision to sponsor Jones during the fight. I'm not exactly sure what that means, but it's significant for no other reason than it's never happened before.
For more than one full year, since Jones stepped in to replace Evans and then defeated Maurício Rua at UFC 128 to win the 205-pound crown, we've been inundated with an endless stream of noise. That's all it is to me at this point: Noise. I doubt I'm alone. And I doubt I'm not the only one who will settle, at a minimum, for a fight that ends definitively without controversy.
I'll live without the label of, "Instant Classic." I couldn't care less if Jones and Evans bob, weave, juke and jive for 10 minutes, so long as it doesn't devolve into a point fight. And if Jones pulls off a Matrix-esque move that turns out Evans' lights quicker than a crazy pee-guzzling cat named Lyoto Machida, I'll take that, too.
Anything more than that and I'll consider it gravy, baby.
The incessant build up has been too much and too often. The rivalry has been way too overblown and too overanalyzed. The backstory too Hollywood and too contrived. I get the entertainment angle, the promotional one, too. I think I get it all, to be honest. I've had to see and hear all the "noise" every day for 13 months, which is much more than the average casual fan, I know.
Maybe I'm jaded. Perhaps tired. Whatever.
But, don't get it twisted: Jon Jones, Rashad Evans and the one world they share, as well as the two that they don't, have done a masterful job of building up this fight. The UFC also deserves an ice pop. I can't wait to watch Jon Jones fight Rashad Evans, and vice-versa. Hell, I might even get goose bumps before the start of a fight for the first time since I don't even know when.
The expectations, however, are just too great.