Published Friday, May 13, 2011 | 1:55 a.m.
Updated Friday, May 13, 2011 | 3:44 p.m.
Their fight might be indefinitely delayed, but the animosity between Jon Jones and Rashad Evans remains.
The former teammates were slated to meet in Jones’ first defense of his light heavyweight belt, but UFC scrapped the bout two weeks ago when the champion announced he would undergo surgery for torn tissue in his thumb. Evans, who hasn’t fought in more than a year, accepted a fight against Phil Davis August 6 at UFC 133 in Philadelphia instead of waiting for Jones to recover.
Although he’s getting ready for Davis, Evans made it clear earlier this week that his beef with Jones isn’t subsiding. Evans even said his negative feelings about Jones have surpassed those he had about hated rival Quinton “Rampage” Jackson.
“I’ve got more respect for Rampage than I do for Jon,” Evans said. “At least Rampage is like ‘look, this is me. This is what you’re getting, straight up. Boom’ I don’t like the sneaky, sneaky stuff. Jon is sneaky, a snake.”
Jones and Evans were training partners in Albuquerque, N.M., for two years under coach Greg Jackson. They both swore they’d never fight each other, but Jones began to sway on that stance as his championship bout with Shogun Rua at UFC 128 neared.
Some of Jones’ comments angered Evans, who eventually left Jackson’s mixed martial arts team, and a war of words through the media ensued. Evans said the only time he spoke with Jones at all since the fallout was in passing at a party in Toronto as part of UFC 129.
“I walked by him and he looked at me and said, ‘what are you looking at?’,” Evans described. “I was like ‘what are you looking at?’ He was like ‘you a clown.’ I was like ‘you a clown’, and that was it.”
Evans is still likely to get his shot at Jones before the end of the year if he can get past Davis. Jones still welcomed the fight during a public appearance in Toronto.
The 23-year old champion also took a softer approach when talking about Evans.
“We were friends and hopefully we can be friends after the fight,” Jones said. “It’s just business.”
But Jones has posted more critical messages about Evans on his twitter account and called him names.
Evans, who used his own twitter to speak negatively about Jones, saw all of the messages. He wasn’t surprised.
“Jon will put on this Jon Jones hat in front of the media,” Evans said, “but I know Jon Jones.”
The situation has captured the attention of the mixed martial arts world. UFC President Dana White has long stated that training partners have to be willing to face each other. But many fighters, including Strikeforce welterweight champion Nick Diaz, say they will never even consider it.
“That’s my team,” Diaz said last month before he fought Paul Daley. “That’s a disgusting thought.”
Jones said he thought bouts pitting training partners against each other would only become more common in the future. He’s not the only one who thinks so.
Ironically, former champion Tito Ortiz — who is notorious for his disputes with White — agrees that fighters have to learn to put friendships aside.
“You take the fight,” Ortiz said. “It’s a different game now. People aren’t getting $100,000 to fight. Guys are making millions. It’s a big difference. That’s what it’s all about. We’re here to support our families and it’s a business.”
Ortiz may have been the least surprised member of the UFC roster to witness the drama between Jones and Evans.
“This will happen every single time,” Ortiz predicted. “It’s a guarantee that this will keep happening. The limelight has the biggest power of all. People want to be famous.”
That’s another one of Evans’ points regarding Jones. Evans said his former teammate has put himself on top of pedestal, one he’s looking to knock him off of.
“I’m not going to say he’s setting himself up for a big fall,” Evans said. “I don’t even want to see that happening to him. I don’t wish anything bad upon him except whopping his ass. That’s about it.”