The situation between Rashad Evans, Jon Jones and their once-shared camp at Jackson’s and Winkeljohn’s MMA in Albuquerque, New Mexico has been keeping the MMA world fixed for its daily required dosage of drama.
Evans and Jones are both light heavyweights; when they first began training together it was accepted that they would never fight one another, but then Jones replaced Evans in a title fight after “Sugar” got injured. During an interview with Ariel Helwani on Versus, Jones gave in and said he would fight Evans if he won the belt and it’s what the UFC wanted, putting Evans on the spot and making him feel disrespected. Next thing you know, Jones has the belt, the two fighters are preparing to fight one another and Evans has walked away from Greg Jackson’s team permanently, so he says.
The split is slowly causing a rift in the team, as many of Jackson’s original fighters have now made permanent homes at Jackson affiliate school Grudge Training Center in Wheat Ridge, Colorado, picking sides in what had to be an inevitable war. One such Greg Jackson original is Keith Jardine, who recently opened up about the situation and its effects on the team to ESPN.com.
“One thing to remember is Rashad is instrumental in this whole Jackson phenomenon starting,” Jardine said of the history at Jackson’s MMA. “Without Rashad, who knows if it ever would have happened? He was one of the first guys to come in from out of town and join the team. And he was a guy who, when the sport was growing, he was winning fights and everybody was looking at him as he was getting better. People were calling Rashad up and he was bringing people to town, and without him, who knows if any of that would have ever happened? Without Rashad Evans, maybe this Jackson’s phenomena never happens.”
As far as where he stands on the conflict, Jardine told ESPN that there is “no question” that he supports his old friend Rashad steadfastly and that, even though the landscape at Greg Jackson’s will be forever changed by this rift, he isn’t taking any personal offense from Jackson or Jones’ actions.
“It’ll never be the same, you know? This gym, when the UFC broke out in 2005, was built on me, Rashad, Nate Marquardt, Joey Villasenor and Diego Sanchez,” Jardine said. “Nate’s going to stay in Denver most of the time now. That’s sort of like the old generation, and they’re welcoming the future with Jon Jones, and that’s kind of where it is right now. For me, there’s no hard feelings; it’s just business.”
Jardine cut Jones slack for starting things by first indicating his willingness to fight Rashad, saying that, “Jon’s just a kid. He doesn’t really think through a lot of things of what he says. And I’m sure he probably regretted it right afterwards and all that, so I don’t think he had malicious intent in doing it.”
Jones and Evans’ relationship has gone from brotherly to tentatively hostile in the space of a month, indicating that there is plenty of time for the two to cultivate a legitimate grudge during the lead up to their fight, which would no doubt turn more eyes to a fight that already has built-in intrigue–as well as further fracturing the family ties extending from Jackson’s MMA.