The verbal exchanges between former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans and current champion Jon Jones have really heated up in the past couple of weeks.
Pro MMA Radio caught up with Evans recently to talk about the status of his knee injury, Jones and Greg Jackson.
"The knee's doing good. It's about 80 percent right now, just trying to do a little bit of training. Just trying to work and get my movement good," said Evans. "I don't want to go too hard and too fast. Don't want to injure myself further."
Evans was originally slated to face Mauricio "Shogun" Rua at UFC 128, but he had to withdraw from the bout after suffering a knee injury during training. With Evans on the sidelines, the UFC offered Jones the opportunity to step in for his injured teammate and challenge Shogun for the world title.
A little over a month later, Evans was forced to watch Jones decimate Rua and take his place atop the 205-pound division.
"It was tough for me to sit there and watch it unfold. I knew I would've been able to beat Rua. I knew there was a chance he'd look bad coming off of surgery because of the last time he fought [Forrest Griffin] coming off of surgery," Evans said.
"I was extremely happy for Jon. That kid, he fought crime at day and then beat a world champion at night. You can't be nothing but impressed by that, despite how much you want to hate him."
The heroic plights of Jones, Jackson and coach Mike Winkeljohn are well documented. Before Jones' championship bout with Rua, the trio came to the rescue of an elderly couple by apprehending a would-be thief.
Heroics aside, Evans feels betrayed by his former head coach and mentor Greg Jackson, who allowed Jones to join Jackson's MMA in the first place. According to Jackson, Evans said he was okay with Jones being brought onto the team, but Evans admits that he was never comfortable with Jones joining.
"I told Greg no [on Jones joining Jackson's MMA], and Greg went to Phil Nurse and talked to him about it and tried to convince Phil to convince me to let him on the team," stated Evans. "Chris Luttrell is pretty much the guy that's Greg's first guy. He's from way back in the day. He told Chris that he wants Jones because he's the wave of the future. Ask any of those guys, and they'll corroborate my story.
"I told him I didn't want [Jones] on the team, and I didn't feel comfortable with him on the team. Greg was really hardheaded about it. Greg said we'd never fight, and we were brothers. I trusted Greg with my life. So, I finally said, 'To hell with it.'"
Jackson's MMA is generally against the idea of teammates being forced to fight one another. The gym hopes to give fighters the opportunity to evolve by sharing, without the worries of showing their hand to a guy they may have to face down the road.
This is sometimes hard to accomplish when your gym is shared by two of the top guys in a particular weight class.
Keith Jardine, a close friend of Evans, is another fighter under the Jackson banner that Evans says initially felt uncomfortable training with Jones.
"I went through the situation with Keith. Keith didn't like it either because he was fighting up-and-coming guys, and he was concerned he'd have to be in a situation where he'd be forced to fight Jon to keep his job," said Evans. "It took Keith a really long time before he was comfortable enough to even train with him."
Despite all of the "team" talk, Evans admits that he saw this scenario coming a mile away.
"I talked to Phil Nurse the other day, and he told me that he feels like crap because, 'you told us this was gonna happen and we didn't listen.' I say this because I don't want people to feel sorry for me. It wasn't about him being on the team. What's done is done," Evans said.
"The thing that upsets me about Jon is how he threw me under the bus because he said he'd fight me after all that time we said we wouldn't fight each other—it was a snake move, and I don't like snake moves. Be a man."
After his win over Rua, Jones ascended to superstardom overnight. Fans have anointed him the future of the sport. While Jones' talent can't be denied, Evans isn't fazed by the hype.
"[Jones] gets beat in practice. He gets beat up like anybody else, just like any other fighter. I'd never take away his talent, but when it comes to acting with integrity. It pisses me off beyond belief," said an upset Evans.
"Jon is always trying to say the right things and be perceived a certain way. Just keep it real. Now I know what time it is. Now I know that you would fight me. You must have been thinking of this for a long time. You must have been keeping score, taking notes during training for a long time."
The former teammates could fight as early as September or October. Jackson has stated that he won't corner or train either fighter, but the time at Jackson's MMA is a distant memory to Evans, who recently cut ties with his former coach.
"I'll be respectful when I see [Greg and Jones]. When you see people's true colors, what more do you need to see? I want real friends. I don't want friends who are only circumstantial. I want somebody who will be there for me when I need help. I don't need weak, fake friends," said Evans.
"The last thing Greg said to me was if you can't trust your friends, you can't trust anybody."
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