One of the most anticipated bouts in the UFC's history finally takes place this Saturday as former friends and training partners Jon “Bones” Jones and “Sugar” Rashad Evans fight for the UFC light heavyweight title.
In 2005, a young mixed martial artist with a background in wrestling named Rashad Evans joined Greg Jackson's fight camp in Alburquerque, New Mexico. On the road to winning the light heavyweight belt, he helped build Jackson's gym into one of the most successful and famous in the sport. By 2009, a new young fighter was making waves in the division and Jackson asked Evans how he would feel about inviting Jon Jones into the camp. Evans was excited by the youngster's potential and took him under his wing. The two developed a brotherly relationship and vowed never to fight one another.
Later that year, Evans lost his title but determinedly set out to reclaim it, beating Rampage Jackson to earn a title shot against Mauricio Rua. By early 2011, Jon Jones was riding an unstoppable wave of momentum. He had won twelve of his thirteen fights, with his only loss a disqualification. When Rashad Evans was injured in preparation for his title fight with Rua, Jon Jones stepped in. Jones demolished the champion and won the belt. Finally, Jones admitted he would fight Rashad if he had to.
In the thirteen months that have followed his title win, Jones has gone on to finish former champions Lyoto Machida and Rampage Jackson as well. Injuries and circumstances have kept the two apart. Evans has left Jackson's and set up his own fight camp, The Blackzilians in Florida. Greg Jackson, trainer and friend to both fighters, has been forced to pick a side and will corner Jones for the fight.
Rashad Evans comes into this fight feeling wronged. He feels like his young friend went back on their agreement not to fight each other. His former friend and mentor seems to have picked his opposition. Add to that his recent split from his wife and living far from his children at his new camp in Florida and Evans cuts a lonely figure. But this loneliness and sense of betrayal seems to be fuelling a fire in the ex champion.
Jones is considered a massive favourite, he has dispatched three former UFC champions in his last three fights. He is young, athletic, creative and has an incredible reach advantage. In his last three fights, he has gone from exciting prospect to unstoppable champion. However, Rashad Evans should not be counted out. He has looked supreme since his come back from injury and he has also defeated a who's who of the light heavyweight division. Not to mention the fact that he has trained extensively with the champ and claims to have his number.
This Saturday is more than just about who will win a title. It is a contest between two best friends turned bitter enemies. For Rashad Evans, it is a chance to show that his old team backed the wrong horse. For Jones, it is another former champion to add to his list of victims.