Light heavyweight champ meets ex-teammate Evans on Saturday
ATLANTA – It’s not like all the talk between Jon Jones and Rashad Evans was completely over Wednesday. There was still a little bit of the tense back-and-forth we’ve become used to over the last year.
But both the champ and former champ agreed that with just three days before their UFC 145 main event at Philips Arena in Atlanta, they’re ready to just make with the fight already.
“I’m here to fight the best fighters in the world, and Rashad is unquestionably one of the best fighters in the world,” Evans said Wednesday at the pre-fight press conference for the Saturday pay-per-view. “Rashad has speed, and I’m excited to see if I can conquer that.”
Jones and Evans, as has been documented repeatedly for more than a year, are former friends and training partners at the Greg Jackson camp in Albuquerque, N.M., where Jones remains. After Jones said last year he would be willing to fight his teammate if he won the belt, Evans left and helped start the Imperial Athletics camp in South Florida.
And while Evans said the constant talk about the former “brothers” facing each other has been a distraction at times in the months leading up to the fight, Jones said the constant scrutiny has simply been part of a ride that he’s enjoying.
“I just realized that it is what it is,” Jones said. “I’m enjoying the process. This is only my third year in the UFC – this is all still very new for me.”
But he did say the added pressure that comes with this fight against Evans as opposed to, for example, his last two title defenses against Lyoto Machida and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, is that he’s had no choice but to buckle down.
“It forced me to hit training sessions I didn’t want to go to,” Jones said. “I pushed it so hard this camp that it got tough toward the end. These coaches are all pushing me to the limit and not realizing they’re not the only coaches I see in a day.”
Jones record is nearly unblemished – his lone loss comes with a big asterisk due to a disqualification for illegal elbows against Matt Hamill in a fight he was dominating.
When it comes to the wrestling aspect of Saturday’s main event, it’s the irresistible force against the immovable object. Evans has taken down every one of his UFC opponents. And Jones? He’s never been taken down, and he’s spent all of 12 seconds of his UFC career on his back.
But on Saturday, he said he’s prepared for Evans’ game plan to want to shoot in on him and put him on the canvas – and he has no problem with that.
“I’ve made it a mental note to not be taken down (in past fights),” Jones said. “Rashad’s a person who takes down everybody and I’m a person who’s never been taken down by anybody. But I have become totally prepared for being on my back. Just because you haven’t seen me on my back in a fight doesn’t mean I’m not comfortable (on the ground).”
But Jones, too, is ready for the talk to end and believes Saturday’s fight will be good for everyone.
“It’s almost therapeutic in a way,” Evans said. “It’s almost like this will be the last counseling session for us.”