Rashad Evans has very real animosity towards Jon Jones.
He has an opportunity on Saturday night to use that animus in order to get back something he feels is his.
“I really want to fight Jon, but I also want to be champion again,” Evans said in a joint conference call last week with Jones to promote their UFC light heavyweight title fight at UFC 145 in Atlanta’s Phillips Arena. “I’ve been talking for over a year. It’s just time to fight.
“I just want to fight already.”
The long-awaited, highly-anticipated showdown between Jones (15-1-0) and Evans (22-1-1) is rooted in feelings of betrayal. Evans has claimed that he was uncomfortable with the idea of Jones joining the Jackson-Winklejohn camp in 2009.
Evans took offense to seemingly innocuous comments by Jones prior his UFC 128 light heavyweight championship fight with Shogun Rua. In separate interviews, Jones said he did not understand why he was questioned about Evans and would fight him if UFC President Dana White asked.
Evans had been slated to meet Rua for the title at UFC 128, but was replaced by Jones due to a knee injury Evans suffered during training camp. Jones decimated Rua in spectacular fashion to become the youngest champion in UFC history.
Jones’s title win sped up the fissuring relationship with his Evans, his former friend, and the Jackson-Winklejohn camp.
Since leaving the Jackson-Winklejohn camp last March, Evans has routinely criticized Jackson for bringing Jones into mixed martial arts’ pre-eminent camp. Evans’s argument has been that Jackson would not have the inclination to effectively prepare him for fights.
Evans is now a member of the self-titled “Blackzilians" camp in Florida. He has won both of his fights since joining the school.
“I told Greg [Jackson] at the time I [didn’t] think it’d be a good idea [to bring Jones into the camp], but Greg did what Greg wanted to do for Greg. That’s why Greg brought him on because Greg wanted to do what he wanted for Greg,” Evans said.
“I haven’t worked with [Mike Winklejohn] since the [Lyoto] Machida fight [in May 2009],” Evans said. Machida knocked out Evans to win the light heavyweight title. It is Evans’s only loss in 24 professional fights. “With Greg Jackson, it [was] pretty much the same thing. From [fights against] Thiago Silva to [Quinton] "Rampage" [Jackson], I trained with Greg a total of five times.”
Evans’s denigration of Jackson prompted Winklejohn to convince his partner to join him in cornering Jones Saturday night. Initially, Jackson was going to sit the fight out because of his previous relationship with Evans.
Jones pointed out that the camp has “a stable of fighters.” Jackson-Winklejohn has an impressive array of fighters that includes UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre and interim UFC Welterweight Champion Carlos Condit.
“In Greg Jackson’s defense, he’s not going to be able to cater like he used to when he only had eight elite fighters,” Jones said. “People are honored to go and train with Greg Jackson and he has to cater to each person.
“A gym like Jackson’s is not a place for the selfish.”
Follow Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.