One of the biggest grudge matches in recent memory takes place in a little over a day. Jon Jones, the electrifying young champ, will take on Rashad Evans, the former champ. This fight has all the drama of a soap opera—former friends turned enemies, broken promises and feelings of betrayal.
The story starts at Jackson's MMA in Albuquerque, NM. This is where the two combatants began their relationship as training partners and friends. All was well, apparently even when Jones stepped in Evans's place to fight "Shogun" Rua for the title when Evans was out with an injury.
The bad blood stems from an interview in which Jones said he would fight Evans if he had to. Rashad took offense to this and now the two are fighting each other for the title.
Whether this was actually the catalyst for the split is up for debate, but what is for certain is that Evans is no longer a part of Jackson's MMA. Evans left to Florida to train with a group of fighters that are now known as the Blackzilians.
On UFC Primetime, Evans reveals that he felt betrayed by Jackson because he felt that there was an understanding that he and Jones would never have to fight, and that this agreement was decided upon before Jones ever started training at Jackson's.
The way I see it, Evans is the one challenging Jones for the belt. It's not like Rashad was in possession of the belt and then Jones challenged him for it. An opportunity arose for Jones to take the belt, and he took it.
I can understand Rashad's point of view as well. When Jones first entered the camp, there was an understanding that the teammates would never have to fight. With Jones choosing to fight for the belt, there is the implication that he indirectly challenged Rashad because Rashad is the former champ and would be in line for the belt once his injury healed.
I don't think there's really a clear-cut good guy or bad guy. It's just a case of two guys wanting to be the best in the world. At the end of the day, there's only room for one champion. If Jones is capable of winning the belt, why not? Should he hold himself back while in his prime, just to avoid stepping on a teammate's toes?
These are two of the best in their weight class. They would have to fight each other sooner or later. If you truly want to be considered the best in the world, that means defeating the best in the world. There's no room for "I don't want to fight this guy." If Rashad can't beat Jones, then he doesn't deserve to be the champ. It goes the other way around as well.
Personally, I'm a bigger fan of Jones. Every single one of his fights has been incredibly exciting. I wasn't a fan of Rashad at first. He did finish fights, but earlier in his career he relied more on his wrestling game and only finished fights in short bursts of action. What changed my opinion of him was his brutal KO of Chuck Liddell.
His time as a coach on The Ultimate Fighter made me a fan. He came across very well compared to "Rampage" Jackson. Jackson seemed really immature and childish, while Rashad came across as intelligent and well-spoken.
They both have outstanding records. Although Jones has one loss (that DQ loss to Matt Hamill was clearly a win), he's basically undefeated. Sometimes it's easy to forget just how good Rashad's record is. He's 17-1-1.
As long as Jones remains as wildly successful as he has been, I think the fans will continue to be in his corner. Regardless of what happens on Saturday, I'll continue being a fan of both these fighters.