Jon Jones cracks a joke at the UFC 145 pre-fight press conference at the Park Tavern on Wednesday, April 18, 2012 in Atlanta, Ga. Photo by Esther Lin via MMAFighting.com.
The considerable hype for UFC 145: "Jones vs. Evans," which takes place this Sat., April 21, 2012, from the Philips Arena in Atlanta, Ga., is close to reaching its apex. That's because we're just days away from the event and Jon Jones finally stepping inside the Octagon to defend his light heavyweight championship against Rashad Evans, a man he used to call a friend, a man he used to train with at Greg Jackson's gym down in New Mexico.
We're in the home stretch now, with just the weigh-ins left to make the fight officially official. That and a short period of time is all that remains between one of the most heavily hyped match-ups in years. And when I say heavily hyped, I mean it.
The UFC put all its marketing muscle behind this showdown, one they hope will deliver in spades. They took us behind the scenes with "Primetime" specials, a full "Countdown" to the big night, and even put them opposite each other on "Ultimate Insider" to light the fuse and watch the fireworks display that surely followed.
And while I won't necessarily argue with the strategy -- I'm certainly not in a position to tell UFC how to operate its business -- it's had a few adverse effects on the two participants, who have spent the better part of the last few months in front of cameras and doing media while trying to prepare for the biggest fight of their respective lives.
They're tired. Gassed. Fatigued. Whatever you want to call it, they're feeling it. This was never more evident than at the pre-fight press conference that took place earlier today. The UFC thought a change of format was in order for this mega match-up, choosing to have Jon Anik sit in as a mediator and run the show, while Jones and Evans sat next to him, similar to they're interview on "Ultimate Insider."
It sounded great in theory, but wasn't so hot in practice.
Evans admitted to being tired of it all. Media is a part of the job, sure, but he's done so much of it that now that they're in the home stretch, arguably the most important time to promote the pay-per-view, he simply doesn't have the energy to jaw back-and-forth with his former teammate. He just wants to punch him.
"We've talked about this to death," Evans commented. "When you talk about something over and over again, it kind of loses a little bit of the emotion behind it. You kind of just make peace with a lot of things. We've been going back and forth, we've been saying this and saying that. It's just been a long process. We're both just tired."
For his part, Jones agreed. "The steam has been taken off for the most part," he said. "On my end, it's time to play the game."
That's all well and good, of course. We fans just want to see the fight, too. But those tuning into the press conference expected so much more than what they were given, it felt like the entire feud was deflated. Here are two men who have spent the better part of the past year and a half running each other down at every turn and now they're sitting across from each other just days away from clashing inside a cage and they're playing nice?
It was an interestingly unfortunate turn of events. As MMA journalist Jon Luther put it, "I'm not a hateful person. Really, I'm not. But this UFC presser is in serious need of some pure, unadulterated hate from both guys."
But, it never came. Jones made a few snide remarks, notably tossing a subtle steroid accusation Evans' way. But Rashad never took the bait, too tired from the 48 rounds of verbal sparring he's already engaged in throughout the last year.
It's impossible to blame either man for their demeanor at the press conference. But it's not wrong to feel disappointed in the turning of the tide. I'm completely fine with fighters playing nice, too.
Just wait until after the fight.