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Rashad Evans Out to Right Wrongs at UFC 145

The chain of events that will eventually lead us to Atlanta on April 21 and allow the world to witness a battle for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship between current title holder Jon Jones and former champion Rashad Evans was set in motion long before Jones ever stepped foot inside the Octagon. You may agree with this assessment or not, but in my opinion UFC President Dana White is a master puppeteer and saw an opportunity to pay Evans back for his refusal to fight former teammate Keith Jardine the minute Jones joined Greg Jackson’s camp and started making his way up the ranks of the light heavyweight division.

After recently speaking with Evans it became apparent very quickly that he is fiercely loyal and steadfast in his beliefs. While many will say MMA is an individual sport most of those people haven’t had the opportunity to spill blood, shed tears, and sweat alongside a teammate day in and day out. Evans values his relationships amongst his teammates more than he does a championship or a paycheck. That’s not to say he doesn’t desire to hold the UFC light heavyweight title or make a good living and be able to support his family. It just means he isn’t willing to sacrifice the relationships he has forged along the way and alienate the men who have helped get him where he is today.

Evans and Jardine quickly developed a bond when the two men were contestants on the Ultimate Fighter 2 back in 2005. They actually fought on the show with Evans winning by decision. As soon as taping was over Evans joined Jackson’s gym and quickly strengthened that bond with Jardine, one that is still going strong today. As the two fighters slowly but surely climbed the light heavyweight ladder talk began to grow that they could possibly face one another if their success continued. Beginning with his fight with Tito Ortiz at UFC 73 in July of 2007, Evans started to fight a higher level of competition. After the Ortiz bout he would go on to defeat Michael Bisping, Chuck Liddell, and then Forrest Griffin at UFC 98 in December of 2008. With his ensuing knockout over Griffin, Evans became the new light heavyweight champ.

Jardine on the other hand was going through a period of inconsistency and because of this talk of him fighting Evans seemed to temper off a bit, but that doesn’t mean that White would forget that both men publicly refused to fight one another. If Jardine had continued on with the success he had after the show had ended both he and Evans would have found themselves in a very difficult position. Jardine had defeated both Griffin and Liddell before Evans did, but lost to Houston Alexander and Wanderlei Silva after those wins. While those losses may have spared the two friends and training partners the headache of either fighting one another or risk losing their position with the UFC it remained in the back of White’s mind and would rear its ugly head the minutes Jones started making a name for himself.

Evans has gone on record as saying that he was not comfortable with Jackson bringing Jones in to the camp. He felt as though it would ultimately lead to the same drama that he and Jardine were forced to deal with. Eventually Evans gave in and agreed to train alongside Jones. It didn’t take long for the two men to develop a strong bond in and outside of the cage. Evans took Jones under his wing and didn’t hold back when it came to helping Jones become the best fighter he could be. Somewhere along the way they made an agreement not to fight one another or allow White to come in between them. Jones seemed to value his relationship with Evans in the same manner Rashad did with Jardine.

After beating Quinton “Rampage” Jackson at UFC 114 the UFC announced Evans would go on to face then champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua once the champion had recovered from knee surgery. The bout was to take place at UFC 128. As it turned out, while training for the match-up Evans injured his knee and was forced to pull out of the fight. In a surprise move, White awarded Jones the opportunity to face Rua after he defeated Ryan Bader at UFC 126. The move in itself wasn’t what upset Evans as he knew the UFC needed to find a replacement; it was the fact that Jones spoke out in an interview during the promotion for his fight with Rua and stated he would face Evans if the UFC offered him the fight. Obviously upset with Jones, Evans left Jackson’s camp and moved south to Florida.

Stung by Jones betrayal and for what he perceived to be a lack of support from Jackson, Evans needed to pull himself together quickly and regroup. He and a team of Brazilian fighters who used to train with American Top Team joined forces with some respected fighters to create The Blackzilians and began training under the tutelage of Mike Van Arsdale at Imperial Athletics in Boca Raton. Since he began working there Evans has defeated Ortiz and Phil Davis. These days “Suga” seems to be more at peace, and although he is still hurt by what went down he is forced to deal with the fact that this is a business; that not everyone abides by the same values he does.

In just six short weeks Evans will get the opportunity to punish Jones for stabbing him in the back and in the process he can win back the belt he lost to Lyoto Machida. The veteran has a chance to prove to the young lion that he made a colossal mistake by breaking the pact they made. Evans also gets to show Jackson that he chose to stand behind the wrong fighter. There is much more at stake here than the UFC title. Everything Evans believes in is on the line. Never has a fight been more personal and never before has a fight created such controversy. As if fighting Jones wasn’t difficult enough, Evans also has to fight the naysayers who have criticized him for taking this too personal. None of us know what went on behind closed doors between Jones and Evans, but we will get to see the fallout from it all come April 21.


  • crane_style says:

    Interesting article, but clearly biased.

    Does anyone think for a second that, if their positions had been reversed, Rashad would have turned down a title shot? What Jones actually said in the interview was “if it came down to a title shot, I would fight him.”

    Friends fight each other all the time, even when a title isn’t on the line. If you’re friends are in MMA, it’s going to happen. How is this a “stab in the back”?

    So Jones changed his mind. Big deal. You get over it. Real friends understand differences of opinion and that things change…or do once they get out of grade school.

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  • Rece Rock says:

    I wish Rashad was the guy to do it BUT he’s not… I truly believe a rematch with Machida will be JJ’s first loss at LHW… if that rematch ever happens.

    JJ was quoted as saying once he’s done with Rashad, Hendo and gustafsson he wants move up to HW because there will be nothing left for him at LHW… guess we will see what happens.

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  • THEGUNNER says:

    Jj just sees the low caliber th hw division has. if hes moves up gets the title and hold it hed be a quick hall of famer.

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  • AlphaOmega says:

    I’ve never understood this whole I can’t fight friends mentality. Why not? Why can’t you be great friends, door closes beat the hell out of each other, door opens be great friends? It has been done, and it has been done well.

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  • MCM says:

    Another well written piece Mr. Levik. And biased it may be, but I agree with it.
    As for the whole teammates fighting teammates, I have no problem with them refusing. MMA is not like other sports. There is something deeply personal that happens in fighting. It’s not like two brothers Quaterbacking against each other, but more like brothers in arms fighting on opposite sides. T
    here is also the team and trainers to think off. For GSP and Condit it’s not a big deal since they don’t actually train together and splitting the coaching isn’t an issue, but look at guys like Shields and Diaz. Shields moved weight classes so avoid the fighting and causing issues within the team.
    Rashad was willing to do the same, but Jones broke the code (from Rashad’s POV) and basically turned on his “brother”. And instead of the team backing him up, they turned on him and sided with Dana and Jones.
    I know that next to no one is giving Rashad a chance in this one. And it’s a hell of a tall order to ask him to dethrone a man that looks impossible to defeat. But Rashad was supposed to loose to Chuck, Rampage and Davis but came out with his hand raised instead. But with all the history and emotions attached to this fight, I just can’t bet against the guy.

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  • Bryan Levick says:

    I truly respect all of your opinions, in fact I find all you guys to be the most knowledgeable fans on any website. I was in the same boat as I felt that this was more of an individual sport than a team sport when push came to shove, but after talking to Rashad I can understand where he is coming from.

    If Jones wouldn’t have made the agreement with him then there would be no hard feelings, but it seems that Jones was leading Evans into believing that he valued their relationship more than he did an opportunity to fight him. Evans also said if Jones had come to him privately at first and said that he felt it was in his best interest to fight him then there wouldn’t have been so much anomisty. Evans was stung because he had to hear it through a third party rather than from the horse’s mouth.

    At the end of the day none of us know what truly went on behind closed doors and we probably never will, but I have to tell you that I gained a ton of respect for Rashad after speaking with him. I told him I’d rather not focus too much time on Jones because it was an old story and he never said a bad word about him. He kept it completely professional. I can tell you this, if I’m in the trenches somewhere I want Evans beside me, he is all about friends and family.

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  • Lord Faust says:

    I actually have a lot of respect for Rashad. He has a tall order to fill at UFC 145, but I really think he’s being underestimated by just about everyone. I’m also in no position to question any sort of code of honour that exists in a gym; I’m just some chain-smoking armchair fight analyst.

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