UFC 145 will finally bring us the match-up that we have all been waiting for. When the bell rings for the main event in Atlanta, Georgia, UFC light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones will put his title on the line against longtime rival and former teammate Rashad Evans.
Evans has haunted Jones for his entire title reign. This is the third time that the title bout has been scheduled and the two fighters have had heated back-and-forths leading up to each potential battle. Each exchange has been harsh and is becoming more personal, but what fuels these harsh words?
If you ask the champion, Evans is fueled by jealousy.
According to the pre-fight interview at UFC.com, Jones said, "Jealousy fuels Rashad, to some degree.I think it's safe to say, ya absolutely, absolutely safe to say. I think it's very weak emotionally on his part. That's why I can't wait for this fight to be over. I have no problem with him. Right now, I have my kids, I have my girl, we have our place together, I'm following my dreams, I'm doing the right things in life, I'm on the right track."
The rivalry started a while ago, despite the fact that the two were teammates at Greg Jackson's. Evans has since left the team to create his own team in Florida - The Blackzilians. Going off on his own and creating a new team added to the rivalry.
"Rashad is the one who looks at this whole story like, this guy's went off and created his own team and he's left the people who were there for him in the beginning," stated Jones. "He's the one who is going through this whirlwind in life right now. And I just can't wait to put him out of his misery, and solidify me being the light heavyweight champion, and then telling him to go have a seat somewhere."
I think that Evans can be Jones' stiffest test to date because of the familiarity he has with the young champion. Despite all of the past sparring sessions, Jones says that this gives Evans no decisive edge. In fact, it could hurt Evans because he is fighting with "an old image of Jones" and not "the new and improved version."
"I'm a completely different fighter since the time he held me down in practice," Jones said. "It's just night and day. He's truly picking a fight with my past. I think when he gets out there he's going to realize there's different combinations, there's different size and strength, there's a whole different kid out there that he's against."
What is the goal for the champion when he steps into the cage?
He wants to make a statement. Not only does Jones hope to retain his title and put the past demons behind him, he hopes to solidify himself as one of the greatest and move on to the next chapter and challenge of his career.
"To finish this fight is one of my goals for 2012, whether it is by knockout or submission, I'm not going to put a title on it. I realize when people are struggling for knockouts, that's when you don't get a knockout. If you are looking for a submission the whole time, that's when you don't get a submission," added Jones. "So I'm going to go out there and have fun. I'm going to play the game that I love so much, and that I've dedicated my whole life to."
When it is all said and done, Jones hopes to once again hoist the UFC Championship. Whether or not he and Rashad can put their beef behind them is not the main focus of Jones. Instead, he just wants to go out, keep his belt and come away with the respect that he feels he deserves.
"And whether me or Rashad become friends again in the future, only God knows. One thing that is inevitable is respect. Once you go out there and put it on the line, there will be respect," said Jones.
"And I can't wait to have his respect."
Who will come out on top? There is only one way to find out. Be sure to tune in to the UFC 145 pay-per-view live from the Philips Arena in Atlanta. It's going to be a war.