Are Rory MacDonald & Georges St-Pierre Headed Down the Same Path as Jones vs. Evans?

July 27, 2012
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Rory MacDonald UFC 145“The lady doth protest too much, methinks”
~ Hamlet

The age-old tale of teammates not wanting to fight one another is always a revalent story in the landscape of mixed martial arts because it always seems to happen.

The most infamous case of two teammates who once upon a time vowed they would never face each other were Team Jackson fighters Rashad Evans and Jon Jones.

At the time, Evans was the patriarch of the team, a former light heavyweight champion who had been a mainstay at the gym for years. Then young upstart Jon Jones came along and started his meteoric rise up the ranks of the 205-pound weight class, but time and time again through every interview conducted, both Jones and Evans stated they would never fight each other.

“(I would) absolutely not (fight Rashad Evans). If Rashad Evans won the belt, which I’m hoping he does, my only goal would be to be the toughest contender there is, and keep whipping butt without being champion. I’d stay at 205 and be the second best. That would be my goal. As I said, I’m hoping he wins, we’re very proud of him. I can’t do it,” Jones told ESPN in late 2010.

Unfortunately, Evans never got the chance to fight for the light heavyweight title because his planned bout against then champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua was scrapped after Evans suffered a knee injury in training. So with Evans out, his teammate and close friend Jon Jones was offered the opportunity to step in and compete for the title instead.

Even at that point, Evans still wasn’t ready to say he’d face his teammate because friendship ran deeper than any title, or so we thought.

“I’m not going to fight him,” Evans told MMA:30 just days after Jones was offered the shot against Rua. “We fight enough in practice. Everybody always said like ‘you’ve got to fight Jones’ and I told Jon I was like ‘you know what man, I enjoy working with you as a teammate and I think whatever’s going to be for you, is for you, and whatever is for me, is for me, and the way it shapes out, it shapes out.'”

Jones went on to win the title, but soon after the championship changed hands, both competitors also started singing a whole different tune.

Rashad Evans exited Greg Jackson’s camp and vowed never to return, and shouted with anger at how Jones had betrayed their pact to not fight each other when in another interview the new champion admitted that if UFC president Dana White wanted the fight to happen, it would have to happen.

“It’s Dana’s world when you’re a UFC fighter and we live in it,” Jones said when speaking to Versus TV back in 2011. “So, I respect Dana a lot, and if that’s what he absolutely wanted to happen, I guess that’s what would have to happen. Me or Rashad would not want to get fired over the situation. It would just be majorly awkward for us.”

The awkwardness obviously faded in favor of animosity as every dirty secret, every bad moment that ever occurred between Jones and Evans soon fell into the spotlight as the one-time teammates soon became heated rivals.

Not every teammate vs. teammate situation will end as bitter as Jones vs. Evans did, but it’s hard to ignore the signs surrounding these types of scenarios as the “super camps” continue to fill up with top talent in the same weight classes.

Take for instance, UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre and 170-pound prodigy Rory MacDonald. Both train under head coach Firas Zahabi at the Tristar gym in Montreal, and both have been quite adamant in the past that they would never, ever face each other.
Georges St-Pierre at UFC 145
“I’m not interested in fighting him. There are a lot of welterweights. I don’t think we have to do it now. In two years, who knows? Maybe I’ll go to middleweight,” St-Pierre told reporters at UFC 145 earlier this year where he attended as one of MacDonald’s cornermen.

“He’s a friend, like a brother for me. I just hope the best for him and I know one day he’ll be world champion.”

MacDonald has been singing the same tune about never fighting GSP, and how out of respect for his team and coaches, he’d take the backseat for now while St-Pierre continues to drive as welterweight champion.

“It’s like this, Georges has seniority at our gym, Tristar. Georges is a friend of mine. We’re training partners together. I don’t know about you, but you probably don’t like to beat up your best friend, cut him, watch him bleed, cry, lose money, all that stuff, it sucks,” said MacDonald.

“But there’s also a thing at our gym, I don’t want to get kicked out for one. I’m newer there, and Georges brought me in as a guy in his own weight division. I have to respect that you know? I have a long way to go in this career of mine, and in the UFC, and I want to wait till I am peaked to carry that title.”

As MacDonald continues his climb up the welterweight ladder, however, it’s hard to ignore the similarities between his situation with St-Pierre and what happened not long ago between Jon Jones and Rashad Evans.

Recently, the often soft-spoken MacDonald has started to show the maturing process even when speaking to the media. In past interviews and press conferences, MacDonald seemed to defer to St-Pierre almost in a “big brother” sort of way, learning and growing under the UFC’s welterweight champion.

MacDonald is starting to become his own man now and that could eventually turn into him being a top contender standing right behind St-Pierre in the welterweight divisional rankings.

“I’ve come to a point in my career where I don’t look up to anybody in this sport anymore,” MacDonald said at the UFC 152 pre-fight press conference earlier this week.

“Yeah, Georges he’s a good friend of mine, but I don’t look up to anyone. He’s a regular guy and a great training partner for me and me for him so it works good together.”

There is a calming influence in this situation as coach Firas Zahabi continues to lead and work with both St-Pierre and MacDonald, but Jones and Evans also had a fierce general heading up their training with legendary coach Greg Jackson at the helm.

Both St-Pierre and MacDonald seem clear when saying they won’t fight each other, and right now it’s not even a matter that has to be discussed. St-Pierre is recovering from knee surgery and takes on Carlos Condit later this year, with another top welterweight contender being crowned in a fight between Martin Kampmann and Johny Hendricks.

Meanwhile, MacDonald has his own biggest test coming up at UFC 152 in Toronto as he faces future UFC Hall of Famer B.J. Penn. Still if MacDonald wins, it’s going to be hard to ignore that he’s slowly but surely creeping up behind his friend and teammate in the welterweight rankings.

White has never understood the concept of teammates not fighting each other, especially with the biggest prize in the world on the line. He’s confident if they wanted St-Pierre vs. MacDonald to happen, it would happen.

“Why are you in this? You’re in this to become the world champion. I guarantee you if Rory looks at (expletive) GSP’s bank account, he’ll want to beat the (expletive) out of him. That’s what it’s about,” White told in April.

“This is the fight business, not the friend business.”

Are St-Pierre and MacDonald strong enough in their friendship and statements to stay the course and truly avoid each other for the foreseeable future or do we have another Jones vs. Evans situation brewing just beneath the surface?

The next year in the UFC welterweight division should be an interesting scenario to watch unfold.

Follow @DamonMartin on Twitter or e-mail Damon Martin.
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  • i_am_dennis

    if GSP makes way for rory at welterweight, that means he moves up to middleweight. GSP vs SILVA. we all win.

    • MaritalArtist

      Agreed x 3

  • it is a sport, not a gangwar. They should compete like professionals. Anything else is disrespecting the belt and the fans.

  • Although i’m not big on training partners not fighting each other, I have to say mike easton and dom cruz said it best on TUF its just business. Keep it professional when u fight each other but Rory also had valid point with his I don’t want to cut my friend or make him bleed etc. But trying to hype the fight up with this article is dumb and wrong. I’m with Dana on this a lot of people say they won’t fight so and so and then. They do. So there’s no reason start hypin up a fight that may or may not happen and killing a friendship, eventually rory will keep gettin better and realize he doesn’t want to be second best anymore. Plus I hate to see all those GSP fans cry cause rory stomped that ass. Let’s face it u can tell rory know he can beat GSP he even admits by saying he will sit backseat for now.

  • xenolord

    If Rory pulls out the W against BJ I’d like to see him face the winner of Ellenberger/Kos to determine the next in line after Kampmann/Hendricks. If GSP is still the champ by the time Rory has earned his shot then they should absolutely throw down. I’m sure it would be a war and they would hug it out like bros afterwards – Zahabi’s boys have class.

  • That would be an awesome fight. If anything they should do it for the fans. Ultimately we are the source of their paychecks.

  • Booker T

    Who cares. GSP is washed up anyway.

    • Cptmats

      Your an idiot ! Gsp is the best p4p fighter in the sport, has been for a long time.

  • No, this won’t be an issue because they are Canadians and not hot headed douchebag Americans.
    If they are forced to fight (as Jon said, it’s Dana’s world), they will, and it will be a great fight.
    GSP has always said Rory would be champ, why wouldn’t it be while GSP was still fighting? They both knew this was coming, but I’m sure they will handle it with style and grace as always. 🙂

  • natpaukar7

    GSP is far from washed up…based on any of his most recent performances…however, I would like to see how he does coming back from such a long layoff…I don’t see any one who has been mentioned…koscheck, penn, macdonald, hendricks or ellenberger even holding a candle to GSP…was martin kampmann mentioned? him either tho…McDonald is good but I don’t think he has what it takes to come close to GSP’s skill set…that havign been set GSP needs a fire to be lit under his ass cause he has been real boring as of late.

    • xenolord

      Hmm how about the man next in line for him, Carlos Condit? Facing Condit after over a year off won’t be a walk in the park.

  • GSP probably has only 2-3 fights left in him anyway.

    Spider vs Bones is a much better matchup than Spider vs GSP

    • Cptmats

      2-3 Fights ? try another ten years if he wants to fight that long !

  • I think I speak for all MMA fans when I say that I would respect Dana 10x more if he would do the Ted Dibiase laugh after making comments like these.