You knew it was coming, it was only a matter of time.
It seems everyone has an opinion on Jon Jones' decision to not take a fight against Chael Sonnen at UFC 151 on short notice to save the card, which was set to go down this weekend (Sept. 1, 2012) from Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada, after Dan Henderson, unfortunately, had to bow out due to injury.
Now, Rashad Evans, the man who knew Jones before he was a huge star and before the endorsements. The one who helped transform a lanky 205-pound fighter into the human wrecking machine that he is today and most importantly, to some, the one who warned fans that Jones was a "fake," has finally given his thoughts on his former friend and training partner turned bitter rival's decision to decline an event-saving fight against the former two-time number one middleweight contender.
The two once shared a brother-like friendship, before Jones broke what was a pact made between the two light heavyweight stars to never face each other inside the Octagon. After a year-long back-and-forth battle of trash talk, the two finally stepped inside the cage at UFC 145 to settle their differences.
When it was all said and done, it was "Bones" who prevailed the victor, however, their relationship seemed unrepairable --- even after 25 minutes of exchanging punches and kicks with one another.
This was Rashad's time to say, "I told you so." This was his time to poke fun and mock the young champion going through one of the toughest of times of his career. A time where he may be the most vulnerable.
The response he gave to Pro MMA Radio, however, may surprise some of you:
"For me, it's a two part question for me. For one, you want to always keep it right for the fighters. It's great for the fighters to have the right to choose a fight. That is one of the liberties we do have, the option to say yes or no to a fight. But then on the other hand, you have a tremendous responsibility as the champion. You are the champion of the UFC. Not only that, you became champion of the UFC through circumstances like this. You had the opportunity to fight for someone that was injured. He stepped into a fight, after I got hurt, so he stepped in for me to fight Shogun. So, he was rewarded by the very process of somebody stepping in to take a fight. So, he owed it to the UFC to take the fight. Not only that, he owed it to all the other fighters on this card who are going to be missing paydays because of that. And lets not talk about how the UFC has done so much to make him the face of the UFC. They sponsored him. Everything he's gotten is because of the UFC, the whole Nike endorsement and everything else like that, has all been because of the UFC. When he got in trouble a few months back, it was the UFC who stood behind him and kind of made it go away relatively quickly. So, for him to turn his back on the UFC is very hard to believe, for one, but it's just disappointing. I'm sure one day, when he has the time to understand the ramifications of his decision, he's is gonna think, 'Wow. What did I really do?'"
Instead of taking the opportunity to bash Jones, Evans chose the high road, not surprisingly, and gave a straightforward and honest answer when it came to his former training partner:
"For me, it's more of a sadness than anything. What it comes down to at the end of the day, despite the fact that me and Jon had our situations and we did part ways the way we did and we fought and I lost, I don't want to wish bad on him. I never want to wish bad on anybody like that because these are things in life that affects more than Jon Jones. It affects his family, it affects everyone that is close to him. So, to wish bad on him is to wish bad on a lot of other people that I have no problems with. Another thing is, dimming his light doesn't make my light any brighter. So for me, I just feel bad that it has come to light, exactly what I was saying and I don't want to be like, 'Ah man, I told you so, I told you so.' I would have been happy if he made me look like a liar. For me, it's about the organization and the sport and he is an ambassador for the sport, so, when he does things like this, it affects everybody involved. If he is going to be champion, then he has to take responsibility pretty serious and know and that he is representing more than just himself with the choices that he makes."
Evans himself is no stranger to having opponents changed on him in the eleventh hour.
At UFC 133, "Suga" was originally set to take on the aforementioned Jones, however, an injury to Jon's hand forced him to the sidelines and Phil Davis, who primarily relies on his wrestling attack, was set up to take on Evans.
After the injury bug struck down Davis, as well, Rashad was dealt yet another change in opponent as he was pitted to take on Tito Ortiz four weeks before fight night. Through it all, the changes in foe didn't make a difference for the former 205-pound champion, as he ran through "The People's Champ" via second round technical knock out (TKO).
One can't commend Rashad enough in his response, especially when many people assumed he would jump at the chance to bask in the misfortunes of the man he spent the better part of a year trash-talking and throwing under the bus.
After all, the rivalry and animosity was real, it wasn't just conjured up from thin air for promotional purposes.
As "Suga" alluded to, Jones himself received his shot at the title on one month's notice, so it leads one to believe that a champion's thought process does indeed do a complete 180-turn when they become the hunted instead of being the hunter.
To listen to the interview in its entirety click here.