It’s not a secret that there is no love lost between Rashad Evans and former teammate Jon Jones.
“I don’t like Jon Jones,” replied Evans when asked about his former teammate on Thursday. “I’ll leave it at that.”
The relationship between the two blew apart when Evans had to drop out of a shot at regaining the UFC light heavyweight championship from Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at UFC 128 in March. Jones stepped in for his injured teammate, won the title, cementing the fallout.
Evans ended up walking away not only from Jones, but his team at Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn’s gym in Albuquerque, N.M.
Looking back on it now, however, Evans doesn’t like to talk much about Jones, but he does put the reasons why he left the gym into perspective.
“When you get to a certain point, you really need a lot of time (with the coaches)… make sure you get the one-on-one, and you just need different things,” he explained. “After being at Jackson’s for a while, with so many people at the gym, it just got harder and harder for me to get that time.
“When you’re in a situation like that, things get a little bit stagnant. How am I supposed to re-invent myself if I’m getting the same kind of thing and I’m not getting the time that I need?”
That was a big part of the reason that lead to Evans to moving away from New Mexico and starting all over again, this time with a smaller group of fighters in Boca Raton, Fla.
The move left him feeling refreshed, saying that it was exactly what he needed to prepare for his fight against Tito Ortiz at UFC 133 scheduled for Aug. 6 in Philadelphia.
At the Imperial gym in Florida, he set up shop with some of the other fighters that share the same manager as Evans, Glenn Robinson. Those fighters initially included Gesias “JZ” Cavalcante, Jorge Santiago, Danillo and Yuri Villefort, and a few others, but that cast of characters has grown rapidly, morphing into a team they call “the Blackzilians.”
“We all got together and we started training and (coach Mike) Van Arsdale came down here,” recalled Evans. “We just pretty much built a team and our team is getting bigger and bigger and a lot better. Guys from all over the world are coming training with us. It’s getting pretty big. What started off as four or five guys has now evolved into quite a bit of guys now.”
With any success, typically growth follows. That’s what happened at Jackson’s. As the team put its mark on the sport, more and more fighters wanted to train there. That continued growth started to cut into the time that Evans felt he needed.
While “the Blackzilians” have seen some growth during his time in Florida, Evans is an integral part of the group, and currently has more control over its expansion compared to the situation he was in. That’s the big advantage he sees with the new camp, and it’s renewed his outlook.
“It was good to come out here and get the freshness.”
It’s that freshness that Evans hopes will carry him to victory this time against a similarly renewed Tito Ortiz, who is coming off of a career-saving victory over Ryan Bader.
Now it will come down to seeing whom the freshness favors more. Evans has the pressure of a victory propelling him into an immediate title shot, possibly against his former teammate. Ortiz, meanwhile, is coming off of a victory he wasn’t supposed to get, accepting a slot against Evans on short notice. He’s again not expected to win.
Will the shifting gears be enough for Evans to this time topple Ortiz, whom he fought to a draw several years ago, only because Ortiz was deducted a point for grabbing the fence? Or will the renewed Tito be able to take advantage of all the time off and change in Evans’ career?
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