Though former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans is focused on his fight with Phil Davis at UFC on Fox 2, there is another man who still gets on Evans' nerves: the current UFC light heavyweight champion. In fact, the mere mention of Jones' name caused the once friendly relationship between Evans and Davis to grow frosty.
"We've actually always been friendly to each other," Evans told Cagewriter. "I've always been a Phil fan. But when you're talking trash about Jon Jones, it kind of bothers me a little bit. I can't lie."
Though Evans and Jones were once friends and training partners, their relationship fell apart after Jones remarked to media that he would fight Evans. Since then, Evans has been irked by Jones.
"All the stuff that Jon has done, he deserves credit for and I respect that. He's been an amazing athlete in the sport, and he's accomplished so much. I have nothing but respect for him in that, but when he opens his mouth against me, it bothers me."
During the UFC on Fox 2 press conference, Davis mentioned what Jones said about Evans' lack of chin. Evans responded to Davis, a Penn State alumnus, by referring to the Penn State sex abuse scandal.
"Sometimes you say things and you didn't think about it when you say it. I can't tell somebody how they should feel about something. It was a lesson that I learned about being a little bit more conscious and watching what I say because you never know how it's going to affect people in different ways."
Both Evans and Davis were collegiate wrestlers, but Davis made a comment that he is the only one who truly has wrestling skills. According to Evans, there is a big difference between collegiate wrestling and MMA wrestling.
"What it comes down to is that he can be the best college wrestler in the world. He can have all the accolades. That's awesome. But we're not wrestling college wrestling. This is a fight. You can have the best college wrestling in the world, but you can have terrible MMA wrestling. His MMA wrestling is OK. It's not phenomenal. It's not exceptional. But his transitions from his punches to a takedown are trash," Evans said.
Davis was an NCAA Division I wrestling champion, but Evans doesn't see him as a well-rounded fighter.
"It's about timing and his timing is off. He's not comfortable standing up and punching, and it's a two-part thing. That's the other part of it. You can have a great shot. Great wrestling, but if you're afraid to get punched, or if you don't have good set-ups for your takedowns, then it doesn't matter. You can't execute because you're too afraid to get hit. Or you spend too much time thinking about it. The moment you think about the shot, the moment I see it. If I see it, it's too late. You're not going to shoot on me."
Next Saturday, Evans will fight in his adopted city of Chicago, just hours away from Michigan State, where he went to school. Logic would say that he would get a warm reception from the crowd, but Evans is usually booed by crowds. He doesn't expect any change from his fellow Midwesterners.
"Of course I expect to be booed. People always have to find the bad guy, and for some reason, the look on my face or something, people just want to boo me.That's fine. I know who I am as a person, and if they boo me, they boo me. That's OK. It doesn't make me lose sleep at night. I know who I am in real life. The same people that boo you are the same people who will ask you for a picture an an autograph. They don't know why they boo me."
Evans is often cast as a villain in fights, but he doesn't relish the role, like Chael Sonnen or Josh Koscheck does.
"It's so far from my character. People who know me in real life know that's on the extreme of the other end of who I am. So when people boo me, or they say things about me, 'Rashad thinks he's this, Rashad thinks he's that,' it does bother me to a certain extent, but then I've got to remember that it's not me they're saying it about. It's a character of who they think I am, and I've got to divorce myself from that character."
He also has learned to take any promises of title shots with a shaker's worth of salt. Evans has been promised title shots with Mauricio Rua and Jones, but injuries and timing have gotten in the way. Again, Evans has been promised a shot at Jones with a win over Davis, but he knows better than to put stock in it.
"No matter what, it's not about the next fight after this one. The only fight that matters is this fight. What comes after this is for the fans to anticipate and think about. For me? Nothing matters besides the fight that I have. And that's the way it should be. Whether I've been promised something or not. Only thing I care about, the only thing I think about is the fight in front of me."