After defeating Ryan Bader at UFC 126 in yet another dominant performance that had us all question whether Jon Jones was genetically created from the sperm of a Kryptonian, the undefeated light heavyweight was publically granted a title shot with Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan.
Jones will replace an injured Rashad Evans, one of his close friends and training partners, in the UFC 128 main event against Rua next month.
The logical next step would be to have Evans, who is already established as the No. 1 contender, fight the winner for the title when he’s healthy enough to compete.
However, Evans has stated on numerous occasions that he will never fight his friend Jones and would consider changing weight classes if Jones were to win the championship.
Wittman is the owner of the Grudge Training Center in Colorado and is affiliated with Team Greg Jackson.
He works very closely with Evans and was brought on as an assistant coach for Team Rashad on The Ultimate Fighter Season 10.
Surprisingly, he feels that Evans should challenge Jones if the UFC light heavyweight championship were up for grabs. Here’s what he had to say.
"I have a different outlook on it and it’s one of those things, I try to keep it real and my beliefs in the sport may be different than some. We have this thing where ‘hey we won’t fight each other because we’re on the same team’ and yeah I do agree with that to a point," Wittman said.
“Now when there’s a title on the line or something big at stake, you never pass up a world championship. I don’t care if it’s your best friend, I don’t care if it’s your brother. I don’t know how Greg [Jackson] feels, he probably feels different about it and wouldn’t want them to fight but my big thing is that if Jon Jones [beats Rua] I feel Rashad needs to fight him.
"There are many things that go into it and I’ll try to explain my side; first off, if you’re the best fighter in the world you need to show it. If you grew up with brothers, you fight with your brothers but if someone picks on your brother out on the street you’re going to be the first one to stand up for your brother," Wittman said.
"A lot of people forget that this is a business, and you have to go out there and make each other money. The positive side that I see in Rashad [if he took a fight against Jones] is that he’s fighting a guy that’s coming up undefeated who is a phenom and who I feel could be one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the near future and I feel Rashad has the tools to beat him."
"If Rashad goes out there and beats Jones, assuming Jones beats Rua which I think he will, it makes for a legacy. You can be a good fighter and there are certain things that can happen, certain paths that will cross you in your life that will make you great like Mohammed Ali and you’ve got to get out there and put stuff on the line sometimes to become great," Wittman said.
“The things that I think will hurt Rashad’s career is, Dana White is a power horse and I think he’ll eat it up in the media that these guys won’t fight each other and I really feel Dana is going to push it because he’s trying to get past that point of teammates not fighting each other.
"He already kind of mocks Rashad in the media right now and I feel he will do it more, so I think that’s a bad scenario for Rashad. I think it’s bad for Rashad’s career to step away from something like this at this point in his career.
"I feel another thing that it would really hurt, and I feel every fighter should do this because they’re entertainers, is put fights on for the fans. If you step away from this, this is a great fight for the fans. It would be a great media build because you have friends fighting each other and I just think it would be great for the sport," Wittman said.
"If he doesn’t fight [Jones], is he going to go up to heavyweight and fight Shane Carwin, another one of his friends who has a complete size advantage over him? Is he going to go down to middleweight and fight Nate Marquardt? It’s the same situation and the thing is, it’s going to happen in any weight class.
"There’s a trilogy that I will always remember in boxing with Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward, these guys didn’t know each other and in their first fight put on one of the best fights of all time. They ended up in the hospital in beds right next to each other and became best friends that night," Wittman said.
"They fought for a second time, went out there smiling at each other touched gloves and put on another spectacular fight. Then they went out for a third fight and the third fight was just as good as the other two and to me that is a unique thing to see two guys who love each other go out there, showcase their skills and showcase who the best fighter in the world is.
"I know Greg feels differently and I respect his beliefs on it and love him to death but that’s just my belief. If it wasn’t for the fans we wouldn’t be the fastest growing sport in the world. Do it for the fans, do it for the sport, [and] do it for your legacy."
This has to be considered one of the most analytical and intelligent responses ever given on the subject of teammates fighting each other in our sport.
After speaking with Wittman for a half hour on the phone, I began to realize why he is such a successful coach.
He understands the fight game better than most and, more importantly, he knows how to put the puzzle pieces together and bring out the best in his fighters.
We certainly cannot look past “Shogun” Rua but it will be very interesting to see what will happen to the light heavyweight title picture if Jones pulls away with a victory at UFC 128.
Mitch Ciccarelli is the sexiest columnist in MMA. A staff writer for Heavy MMA, featured columnist for B/R and host of Crouching Tiger Hidden Leprechaun MMA Radio, Ciccarelli is also a future United States Airman beginning basic training this March. He is also engaged to Eva Mendes and Jessica Simpson Michele Gutierrez.
Follow Ciccarelli on twitter, unless you have herpes. @MitchCiccarelli