Rashad Evans is one of the best light heavyweights in the game today. In fact, he may very well be one of the best light heavyweights of all time.
That statement will likely be met with malice and it's easy to see why. "Suga" rubs folks the wrong way, for whatever reason. Be it his cocky streak and tendency to dance around in the cage in his younger years or his skin color or something else. I don't even know what, really.
Mixed martial arts (MMA) fans just don't seem to like the guy. We know this because they boo him boisterously when he enters the arena for his fights.
He knows this, too, as if there would be any way for him not to. But he's learned to deal with it, to battle through the negative perceptions of him to win 17 of his 19 career fights. Now, at 32-years-old and already having accomplished so much, Evans is thinking beyond winning titles. He's thinking about his legacy and how he's going to cement his place as one of the best who ever stepped inside the Octagon.
"But this fight is not about proving a lot of people wrong about Jon Jones; it's about proving me right," Evans wrote in his blog at Yahoo! Sports. "I'm one of the very best light heavyweights out there and it's time for me to cement my legacy. I've beat top guys for years and years - before Jon was even in the UFC - and in a sport where everyone loses big fights here and there, I've had one bad night in seven years. This is the perfect opportunity and perfect chance for me to show that I'm as good as my record says I am."
Indeed, fans and pundits alike are essentially counting Evans out of this fight, all but dismissing his past accomplishments. Part of that is because of the one bad night he speaks of, an embarrassing knockout loss to Lyoto Machida.
That's the same Lyoto Machida who Jon Jones viciously choked unconscious back at UFC 140 on Dec. 10, 2011, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
"Bones" is favored by as much as -600 by some oddsmakers with "Suga" Rashad a solid +400 underdog. That's a staggering line for a championship fight. It shows that Jones is held in such high regard thanks to his otherworldly stature and incredible in-cage abilities.
Evans assures that's not the case with him. He doesn't see his former teammate through that lens and that's what's going to give him the edge come fight night.
"The illusion of or the mythical Jon Jones that the other guys fought, it doesn't exist for me. I know how weak he is mentally - all the doubts he has about himself. I'm going to be the first one to stop this kid. I saw an interview where he says he's not giving it to me. He don't have to. I'm taking it from him at UFC 145 on April 21."
Just under one month until we all find out.