Much to the annoyance of UFC president Dana White, many fighters competing in MMA today hold very true to their team allegiances and refuse to fight their training partners, no matter the consequences. This becomes a significant issue when several fighters from the same training camp inhabit the same weight class and individually advance to the point where a fight between two of them is necessary to clarify the title picture.
When UFC light heavyweight Rashad Evans was forced out of his planned title shot against champ Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and was replaced by his younger teammate Jon Jones, it was easy to see a sticky situation developing, should Jones take the belt. Initially, Evans indicated that he would change weight classes if Jones won the belt (which he is favored to do), but he has since soured on the idea, possibly prompted by his coach Trevor Whitman’s urging or by comments Jones’ recently made in a conversation with Ariel Helwani during last week’s Versus broadcast of UFC Live: Sanchez vs. Kampmann.
“I respect Dana White a lot and if that’s what he absolutely wanted to happen then, you know, I guess that’s what would have to happen,” Jones said of a fight between himself and Evans. “Me or Rashad would not want to get fired over the situation. It would just be majorly awkward for us. Rashad and I have a lot in common; we’re both young, African-American men with families, we both like to sing and have fun, we’re both elite MMA fighters, I mean we have a lot in common. We really clicked really well and there is just so many other great fighters in the world that we could compete against. And we’re not animals, we’re friends and we’re people, we’re human beings. I just would hate to have to fight my own teammate. I would never want to.”
In speaking with the crew at ESPN MMA Live recently, Evans indicated his own willingness to fight Jones, though he admitted that he isn’t sure what the UFC will do with him, considering his currently strained relationship with Dana White.
“I don’t know what to expect anymore with the UFC. I’m not on Dana’s favorite, uh, fab five, so I don’t know,” said Evans. “It can go either way. But if it does happen that I get a title shot afterwards, then I have to think about whether I take it depending on who it is and decide on what I want to do,” Evans said. “This is a sport and Jones has a pretty good chance of winning this fight and you know, I got him to win it. So if he wins the fight, then I gotta sit down with the team and decide what we do from there. Jones expressed last night in an interview that he would fight me for the title so… I guess if… I mean… I’m no punk, so…”
If “Shogun” Rua gets his way, Evans vs. Jones will be a non-issue as he most certainly intends on defending his belt against “Bones” when they meet in the cage on the 19th of this month at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.