For those of you that thought the beef between former light heavyweight champs Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Rashad Evans was all for show, then you definitely missed what went down during a recent UFC 114 media call.
“These kind of fights happen every once in a while,” UFC president Dana White said of the genuine hatred between the two rivals. “Don’t fool yourself, this is the fight game. Sometimes the guys who fight each other, they just don’t like each other. These guys don’t and it is what it is."
“There’s that WWE stuff when the guys are out there trying to hype it up and make it look that way, but these guys seriously don’t like each other. It doesn’t get more real than this.”
The mortal enemies were originally slated to fight at UFC 107 after completing their assignments as coaches on “The Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights,” however Rampage opted to turn his back on MMA and accept the role of B.A. Baracus in the movie remake of “The A-Team.”
“I’m excited,” White said of the highly anticipated matchup. “When you get two of the best in the world fighting, it’s always fun. But, when you get two guys of that caliber that really don’t like each other, it’s great.
“This was the fight. These guys both coached on ‘TUF’ and not only do I think everybody wants this fight, but I know these two want this fight really bad. The day that they walked on the set, they don’t like each other.”
Rampage holds an impressive 30-7 professional record, however hasn’t fought since taking an uneventful unanimous decision over Keith Jardine, Evans’ Jackson Submission Fighting teammate, at UFC 96 last March.
Evans bounced back nicely from his only professional loss when he escaped with a unanimous decision victory over Thiago Silva at UFC 108. Although the wrestler dominated much of the matchup, Evans was nearly knocked out in the fight’s closing seconds by a desperate Silva.
Both have donned Octagon gold and own impressive—yet different—MMA games. Rampage comes with a vicious standup arsenal, while Evans is one of the sport’s most accomplished wrestlers. Although they haven’t expressed much love for the others’ skills, White believes there is an abundance of admiration between the foes.
“I’ll be honest with you, and they’ll probably both deny it right now, but the thing is that they both respect each other in ways, but they still don’t like each other,” White added. “When this fight is over, they may squash this. When this fight is over, they might still hate each other. You never know how this goes. But the respect is there.”
UFC 114 takes place inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on May 29th.