Whether in Mixed Martial Arts or anywhere else, you’re defined as a Champion by the people that you face and beat to win and retain the belt. As a former UFC Light-Heavyweight Champion, “Suga” Rashad Evans should know this as well as anyone.
So what is it that has provoked his displeasure at Jon “Bones” Jones and trainer Greg Jackson ahead of the proposed showdown between the former camp-mates for the title?
In Evans’ eyes, perhaps it starts with a lie. Prior to receiving a title shot against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Jones had stated that he did not want to fight his training partner. This drew criticism from some fans and from inside the UFC, who naturally want to make the most favourable match-ups possible to attract more people to their events.
Yet it wasn’t just Jones who had originally baulked at the prospect: according to Evans’ manager Malki Kawa, there was a likelihood of Rashad moving to Middleweight or Heavyweight rather than face Jones for the title, should he win at UFC 128.
And in the build-up to the fight, Jones did his best to deflect questions about a possible fight with Evans if he were successful in winning the title, but admitted that if the UFC wanted the fight to go ahead that badly, then both men would have to consider it, a stance that Rashad was apparently in agreement with.
But somehow, when it came down to being asked if he still wanted the shot, Evans was agreeable, and since the match was announced has started flinging mud around the arena to try and put the heat on Jones and Jackson for agreeing to the fight.
In the post-match interview with Joe Rogan, Jones was visibly less happy about the prospect of facing Rashad, almost to the point where he looked as though someone had spoiled his party when Rogan told him that Evans would be his next opponent. Meanwhile Evans looked smug and defiant and justified his decision to be the next man to face “Bones”, saying that you “should never say never. He’s got that strap, and I’ve got to go after it.”
Yet Evans has complained that he was always against Greg Jackson bringing Jones into the camp, and that he feels as though he has been sold out. But what was Jackson supposed to do? Turn down the opportunity to train with one of the sport’s future stars to appease the ego of the former champ? And according to Jones, Jackson had made sure that his top guys had no problem with Jones joining the camp.
Having seen the match made, Jackson was happy to make it clear that he didn’t intend to play favourites, and would not coach either man in the build up to their clash, but Evans has seen fit to break away from the Jackson camp, claiming that his trust has been broken.
Evans is also moaning that Jones has agreed to the fight, but surely this isn’t within the current champion’s province? If Jones were to turn down Evans as an opponent, Dana White and the UFC would have every justification to strip him of the title. In this situation, surely it has to be Rashad’s call not to take up the option to challenge the title-holder for the belt when he was asked by the UFC, rather than something that Jones had control over.
So why is Evans making such a fuss? Surely he didn’t expect Jones to simply reject the match and potentially forfeit the title? Or is his ego that big that it would demand the younger man be subservient to him?
Is he afraid of Jones? It’s certainly starting to look like it with all his complaints about having to take the match.
As it happens, Evans doesn’t have to take the match—he could bide his time until Jones is no longer the champion, or, as previously suggested, shift to another division, if he is so adamant that he didn’t want this fight to take place.
Jones does have to take the match. As champion he has to face the top guys to prove his worth and to prove that he is a worthy man to hold the title. We can’t have the Champ cherry picking who he is prepared to defend the title against.
So all these complaints by Rashad—what do they add up to? It’s clear that he didn’t want the fight made, yet he accepted it to have a chance at the Light-Heavyweight title, so perhaps the hypocrisy is just another part of the normal pre-fight mind games.
Or, just perhaps, “Suga” Rashad Evans is running scared of Jon Jones.