The relationship between training partners Jon Jones and Rashad Evans, which they have described as brotherly in the past, seems to be growing strained now that the two men both reside at the top of the UFC’s crowded light heavyweight division.
Evans was forced out of a planned title shot against champ Mauricio “Shogun” Rua after injuring his knee in training and it was Jones the UFC eventually chose as his replacement, setting off a string of events/conversations which seem to have taxed both men. Originally, Evans was supremely supportive of Jones, predicting his victory and even pledging to move weight classes should “Bones” establish a lengthy championship run. Evans hasn’t changed his tune on the outcome of the bout, but has since rescinded his offer to change weight classes.
Since he will be staying at 205lbs., speculation naturally began over how the light heavyweight title picture should be sorted out if Jones wins the belt with Evans holding the top contender’s spot. In the past, the two remained staunchly opposed to fighting one another, but Jones softened his stance when speaking with Ariel Helwani during the UFC Live: Sanchez vs. Kampmann broadcast last week, saying that he and Evans wouldn’t want to get fired for not fighting and that, if the UFC called for it, the fight would have to happen. In response, Evans said that he’s “no punk,” indicating his willingness to face the young dynamo.
As a result of the drama inherent to a teammate vs. teammate scenario and specific to Evans’ and Jones’ particular situation, much of the focus on “Bones'” upcoming title fight with Rua is actually being put on what Jones will do about Evans if he wins and not on the difficult task he has in front of him, and the young fighter has had quite enough.
“With all due respect to you as a reporter – and I want to make it clear to all the other reporters – but I absolutely hate when people mention Rashad Evans, especially throughout this training camp,” Jones said on the conference call held to promote his UFC 128 title fight.
“Rashad is not in my mind,” Jones continued. “He’s not in my being. He has absolutely zero to do with my heart and who I am right now. Right now, it’s me vs. Jon Jones, and right now I’m beating all the weakness out of myself. I’m beating all the give-up out of myself. The lack of cardio, the lack of confidence – any sign of weakness that’s within my heart right now, I’m getting rid of it. The fact that people are bringing up Rashad, it almost angers me. Rashad has nothing to do with ‘Shogun.’ I think from here on out, I won’t even answer a question about Rashad.”
Fair enough, but Jones will have to get used to fielding those kind of queries if he beats Rua, which is no easy task but is one that he’s favored to complete by the oddsmakers. UFC 128: Shogun vs. Jones goes down on the 19 of this month at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. Don’t forget to check back on FightLine.com that night for our live, ongoing coverage of the event.