As long as fighters have been training, well, heck, as long as athletes have practiced their chosen sport, there has been the adage that no matter how hard you train, you can’t fully simulate the conditions of live competition. No matter how battered and bruised fighters get in the gym, there is a level above that when they step in the cage and put it all on the line.
In the gym, there’s a level of respect and a concern to be prepared, but not injured, before heading into competition that just isn’t present when the fight goes live. It can’t be simulated, otherwise, fighters would rarely make it to the event intact.
As often as UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and former teammate Rashad Evans have sparred, rolled, and trained together, that’s the mode they’ve always been in… training mode. They’ve never been full-on live. But that will change, likely sometime in early 2012, when the two will step into the Octagon with Jones’ belt on the line.
It will be the peak of the mountain of contention that has quickly gained steam outside of the cage.
“He’s flapping his gums, talking to himself, to try and convince himself that he’s ready and he has this and he has that over me,” Jones told MMAWeekly.com in an exclusive interview in Washington, DC, last week.
“Rashad is saying he has my number, he knows what he can do, and he knows all this stuff. I know all this stuff as well (about him). I do really good on improv. I’m excited to see what I can do with somebody I’ve went with several times before.”
With many teammates, the outcome if they stepped in the ring could be very predictable, at least to them and their training partners, based on how they trained together. Most fighters are rather orthodox in their training and techniques; Jones, however, is not. That puts a much different spin on the time he and Evans spent working together.
While Evans is more orthodox in his approach, Jones has set himself apart, as he says, because he’s “really good on improv,” and that is something that could swing heavily in his favor come fight time.
“When I spar my team, there’s a level of respect that’s always there. To let that clutch off for the first time and go into turbo mode on him, it’s gonna be interesting. I know where he’s open and I know where he’s gonna try and take the fight.”
Evans, however, has been on the block a lot longer that Jones, which could lead to an edge when it comes to the psychological warfare at this level of the game. The head games started long ago with the talk between the two, and escalated at UFC 135 in Denver when the UFC had Evans step into the cage to pump up their pending match-up shortly after Jones defeated Rampage Jackson.
“Even on a marketing standpoint, me and Rampage do all this selling fights and then Rashad comes in and markets himself right in the middle of my big day. I don’t like you, you don’t like me, stay off my special night. Now all the Endicott (N.Y.) kids are starting to figure, ‘oh, who’s Rashad Evans? It’s the guy that shows up at every Jon “Bones” Jones fight.’
“He’s just flappin’ his gums and talking to himself to try and convince himself that he’s ready and that he has this and he has that over me.”
Jones, however, believes he’s not without tools in his psychological belt. He also believes his recent experience with the epic smack talk of Rampage only sharpened those tools.
“(Evans) went to school for psychology. I think I’m gonna prove in this fight that my psychology is together as well,” said Jones. “I’ll be able to exploit lots of things in Rashad Evans. Rampage just prepared me for Rashad.”
This fight has been building all year long, and with several months before it will happen, the flames are sure to be stoked much higher come fight time. The only question now will be if the fight is as epic as the build-up is sure to be.