If you’ve been following MMA the last couple years, you already know the story of Jon Jones and Rashad Evans.
Former training partners turned rivals, the two have been destined to fight since Jones took the UFC light-heavyweight championship from Mauricio (Shogun) Rua while subbing in for an injured Evans two years ago. Evans then left Jackson’s MMA and formed his own camp, the Blackzilians, in south Florida.
After a pair of false starts — two other meetings were derailed due to both men getting hurt during training — Jones will finally defend his belt against Evans in the main event of UFC 145 in Atlanta Saturday.
Truthfully, there is little either fighter can say that hasn’t already been expressed. There are no new answers to the same questions that have been lobbed at them for months.
The time for talk has ended. All that’s left to is enter the octagon and settle the score once and for all.
“It’s been frustrating at times, I’m not going to lie,” Evans said at a pre-fight press conference Wednesday. “I could sit here and say I’m not bothered by any of it, but I’m bothered. I’m sick of talking about it. I’m sick of talking about Jon. I’m sick of looking at him. I’m sick of everybody asking what happened.
“I just want to get in there and fight.”
Despite Evans publicly criticizing his former trainers, and Jones’ coaches, Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn, the champ claims he isn’t bothered by any of the build-up. If anything, he’s simply treating it as yet another lesson on his path to becoming a better fighter.
“I just go over everything that’s been said and find every video I can and I’m just becoming more familiarized,” Jones said. “I’m enjoying the process. This is only my third year in the UFC and none of this stuff is old for me.
“I’m not sick of it. It is what it is.”
Though he’s taking everything in stride, Jones admitted that a little bad blood goes a long way in the gym.
“I would have to say it’s helped,” Jones said. “It’s forced me to go to training sessions I did not want to go to. I love training and I’m passionate about training — it’s a game to me.
“I pushed it so hard in this camp to where it got tough at the end. It almost got to the point where with some of my coaches, I had to talk to them and be like, ‘Hey, I had swimming practice a minute ago and my swim coach really gave it to me. Winkeljohn’s really going to give it to me and Greg is really going to give it to me. My wrestling coach is really going to give it to me.’ These coaches are really pushing me to the limit and not realizing they’re not the only coach I see in a day.
All I want to do is recover, but listening to someone insult me religiously made me want to get back in the gym. I would have to say some of the things he said definitely pushed me and inspired me to really demonstrate greatness in this fight.”
According to Jones, Evans is allowing anger to be his guiding light, which will only come back to bite him once the cage door shuts.
“When I said I felt Rashad was fighting out of anger, it’s not that he’s going to be in the cage (staring a hole through) me,” Jones said. “What I meant by that is he’s focused so much on the storyline. He’s telling all these stories about Greg and Wink, and how I’m so cocky.
“Where with me, I kind of feel like I’m being more reactive, instead of trying to attack his personality, because I really don’t care about defending my personality. I have a very strong fan base and a very strong hate base. It is what it is. I realize that I’m here to complete a mission and that’s to have my hand raised.
“That’s why I said he’s fighting out of anger because too much of that pre-fight stuff is going to take too much of your emotion and your effort. I’ve been focused on tactics since I signed that contract.”
Despite Jones’ remarks, Evans said he’s moved beyond hatred.
“I’ve made my peace with the situation,” Evans sad. “I’m really not that emotionally invested in it anymore. I know I had to tell the story over and over again and every time (critics) were like, ‘Oh my God, he’s whining again.’
“Everybody asks me the question. If they didn’t ask me, I wouldn’t say anything about it.”
Perhaps the lengthy build up was the best thing for both fighters. With their mutual dislike burned up through rigorous training camps, neither man discounted the possibility that the bridge could be mended after the fight.
“We’ve talked about this to death,” Evans said. “The more you talk about it, the more it loses the emotion behind it and you can kind of just make peace with it. It’s just been a long process and we’re both tired.”
“The sting has been taken off for the most part,” Jones responded. “It’s time to play the game.
“I was watching the (Muhammad) Ali documentary When We Were Kings and it was just so cool to see these guys who fought each other and hated each other, and how they were able to talk about the fight and laugh.
“But right now, we’re competing.”
Though Jon Jones and Rashad Evans have 35 professional MMA bouts combined, they have only faced three common opponents.
KO win over Evans
Submission loss to Jones
Unanimous decision loss to Evans
Submission loss to Jones
Majority decision loss to Evans
Unanimous decision loss to Jones