Mel Evans / AP
Thursday, April 5, 2012 | 6 p.m.
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- How much of a chance do you give Rashad Evans to upset Jon Jones at UFC 145?
- No way Jones will lose — 29.3%
- Evans will win — 25.7%
- It would take a miracle — 25.2%
- It's a toss-up — 19.8%
This poll is closed, see Full Results »
Note: This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.
The most scrutinized relationship between current fighters on the UFC’s roster began in a nondescript conference hall at Red Rock Resort three years ago.
That’s where Rashad Evans says he first met current champion Jon Jones. Evans’ coach at the time, Greg Jackson, planned to invite Jones to join their team in Albuquerque, so the two light heavyweights needed to meet.
The UFC’s annual fighter summit seemed like the perfect place.
“We were just hanging out and he was so excited,” Evans recalled. “He was like, ‘Oh my god, Rashad, I can’t wait until the opportunity to train together. I would never fight you, bro. We’re going to be like brothers.’ He was just an exciting kid. I liked his energy.”
Evans was drawn to the 21-year old Jones’ upbeat naïveté and friendly demeanor. Jones felt an immediate connection to the 29-year old Evans because of how much they had in common as black fathers and fighters.
“I don’t remember first meeting Rashad, but I did think he was a smooth operator,” Jones said. “He was a smooth guy and a nice dresser. He was fun to hang out with.”
Their initial friendship might be the last thing Jones (15-1 MMA, 9-1 UFC) and Evans (17-1-1 MMA, 12-1-1 UFC) can agree on. The two best 205-pound fighters in the world, of course, had a much-publicized falling-out last year that eventually led to their UFC 145 championship bout scheduled for April 21 in Atlanta.
They’ll recount the events on a three-part series of “UFC Primetime,” which begins airing Friday at 11 on FX.
Some of the recent history between the two played out in Las Vegas, but their biggest point of contention remains what happened when they trained together in Albuquerque.
“To set the record straight, me and Rashad only trained together on like 12 different occasions,” Jones said. “He really doesn’t know my style. I don’t know his style.”
“People have this image in their heads like we really knew each other, that we were brothers. That’s not true.”
Evans remembers more practice sessions with Jones than that. Evans said working with Jones made him a better fighter. Jones said sparring with Evans provided no benefit to his career — except maybe motivation.
Jones seethes at Evans’ recollection of one particular day in the gym. Evans has repeated his memory of holding down Jones and pummeling him multiple times. Jones contends Evans is exaggerating, but the challenger added a new twist this week. Evans said video of the encounter existed.
“The UFC could play the rest of the tape,” Evans said. “They recorded our training session that day. It’s the same day of the clip where I stand up and have ‘The Incredible Hulk’ shirt on. It’s the one clip they always show of us training. If they just show the whole clip, it would show everyone what happened when we trained together.”
Jones responded: “Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t. It was just so long ago. I had only been fighting for a couple years. No one can deny the progressions I’ve made. If he’s bragging about holding a guy down once who was in his third year, let’s see what happens now that he’s in his fifth year.”
The dislike between Jones and Evans is boiling more than ever before as their bout nears. It wasn’t always this way.
Even after they originally broke off their friendship and parted ways last year, they weren’t thrilled about fighting each other. Neither Jones nor Evans can pinpoint an exact moment when everything intensified, but an encounter on May 11, 2011 at Surrender nightclub at Encore didn’t help matters.
Evans said he was hanging out friends and enjoying himself when Jones walked in "to tell me some garbage.”
“If it wasn’t for the fact that we were professionals and I wanted to be a good ambassador for the sport, we probably would have gotten into it,” Evans said. “But we were all in the club and there were so many other fighters there. The last thing I wanted to do was do exactly what everyone thought I was going to do and fight.”
Evans recalls Jones as the instigator. Jones isn’t so sure.
“It was a heated argument,” Jones said. “We broke off to the side and I remember him saying something. I don’t remember the conversation, but I did tell him I would love to knock him out.”
His chance is nearing. Jones is no longer the lively youngster from that day in Las Vegas. Evans is no longer the potential mentor.
“I think I’m in his head without saying anything,” Jones said. “I think my fighting has gotten in his head. I’ve finished a guy who finished him in (Lyoto) Machida. I’ve finished Rampage (Jackson), who almost finished him. I think that alone has gotten in Rashad’s head.”