Following the events at UFC 135 over the weekend, the light heavyweight title picture is already clear for what happens next with Rashad Evans getting his shot at Jon Jones.
The storyline between Evans and Jones reads like a Hollywood script.
Evans, who had been trained for several years by head coach Greg Jackson, saw a young buck by the name of Jon Jones welcomed into camp with open arms. With both fighters in the same weight class, there was an unspoken, if not spoken, agreement that they would not fight each other or impede their goal to become champion.
That all stopped for Evans when Jones said he would fight his teammate before talking to him about it first. Evans abruptly left Team Jackson, formed a new team in Florida, and now his one-time friend will soon stand across the cage from him as his No. 1 enemy.
Like any great competition however, when the dust settles and cooler heads prevail, everyone wonders if Jones and Evans could ever become friends again, and would the former “Ultimate Fighter” winner ever go back to work with his longtime trainer and coach Greg Jackson?
“No, I don’t think I’m ever going to train back at the Jackson camp,” Evans said recently. “I will go back to Albuquerque (N.M.) at Mean 1, at Keith (Jardine’s) gym, but the things at Jackson’s camp, they’re just different now. It’s not the same no more.”
Evans started training with Jackson right after his time on “The Ultimate Fighter” season 2 and had been there ever since. In the early days of the now famous gym in New Mexico, Evans was there alongside fighters like Diego Sanchez, Keith Jardine, Joey Villasenor, and Nate Marquardt.
But as the sport grew bigger and Jackson’s coaching techniques started to produce more and more winners, the gym also elevated in size and accomplishment. Evans says that’s when the atmosphere changed for him, to the point where he didn’t feel like it was home anymore.
“Back in the day, it was like we were all family. We were really tight with each other. But now it’s gotten so commercial, Greg is always gone all over the place, and it’s just not family no more. It’s too transient. You can pay a certain amount of money and you can come and live at the Jackson camp and it just got so transient, you’d see so many different faces come and go. It’s just not the same place as before,” Evans stated.
“Like before, I could leave my mitts on the mat and then come back, and I know they’ll still be there. Now I leave my mitts on the mat for five minutes, I’m like, who got my mitts?”
The beginning of the end for Evans at Team Jackson started when Jones first came to train at the camp. Evans explains that it’s that whole situation that has caused him to sever ties with Greg Jackson altogether, and doesn’t see how the bridges that have been burnt will ever be rebuilt.
“It’s beyond a blame,” Evans said about the Jones situation. “Greg knew what he was doing, what was up with it when he brought him into camp, and that’s why I don’t have too much to say to Greg anymore.
“Because it’s like you knew I told you about this before it even happened, and you sat up there and said ‘if you can’t trust your friends, who can you trust,’ but then when it goes down you want to wash your hands and walk away and so ‘oh, I had nothing to do with this,’ but you brought it to make it happen. So I don’t like that, and I don’t respect that.”
Evans was in the cage with Jones on Saturday night at UFC 135 following his win over Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, but the former light heavyweight champion didn’t make much eye contact or anything with his former trainers who stood in the cage along with him.
It’s clear that when Rashad Evans meets Jon Jones for the UFC light heavyweight title, there will be more than just gold on the line. For Rashad Evans it’s a matter of principle and respect, and he’s planning on taking both along with Jones’ belt when they meet.