Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Rashad Evans: Jon Jones owed it to the UFC to fight Chael Sonnen at UFC 151

By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief

UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones has made his fair share of enemies and detractors since capturing the title last March, beginning with former friend and training partner Rashad Evans. Their friendship-turned-feud led to a bout this April, where Jones earned a unanimous decision in a mostly one-sided bout, but the hatchet hasn't been entirely buried.

One of the major criticisms levied against Jones by Evans was that his public persona didn't match who he was, and he was also critical of Jones' attitude towards things in the fight game. With Jones turning down a fight with Chael Sonnen in part leading to the cancellation of this week's UFC 151 event, Evans feels that Jones lost sight of what got him to the top.

"You have a tremendous responsibility as the champion. You are the champion of the UFC," Evans said in an interview with Pro MMA Radio (transcribed by "Not only that, you became champion of the UFC through circumstances like this. You had the opportunity to fight for someone that was injured. He stepped into a fight, after I got hurt, so he stepped in for me to fight Shogun. So, he was rewarded by the very process of somebody stepping in to take a fight. So, he owed it to the UFC to take the fight. Not only that, he owed it to all the other fighters on this card who are going to be missing paydays because of that."

"And let's not talk about how the UFC has done so much to make him the face of the UFC. They sponsored him. Everything he's gotten is because of the UFC, the whole Nike endorsement and everything else like that, has all been because of the UFC. When he got in trouble a few months back, it was the UFC who stood behind him and kind of made it go away relatively quickly. So, for him to turn his back on the UFC is very hard to believe, for one, but it's just disappointing. I'm sure one day, when he has the time to understand the ramifications of his decision, he's is gonna think, 'Wow. What did I really do?'"

Though Evans feels his criticisms of Jones have simply been confirmed with Jones' recent actions, he said it's not something he gains any satisfaction from, and more than anything he's sad to see Jones' path take this turn.

"For me, it's more of a sadness than anything. What it comes down to at the end of the day, despite the fact that me and Jon had our situations and we did part ways the way we did and we fought and I lost, I don't want to wish bad on him," Evans said. "I never want to wish bad on anybody like that because these are things in life that affects more than Jon Jones. It affects his family, it affects everyone that is close to him. So, to wish bad on him is to wish bad on a lot of other people that I have no problems with."

"Another thing is, dimming his light doesn't make my light any brighter. So for me, I just feel bad that it has come to light, exactly what I was saying and I don't want to be like, 'Ah man, I told you so, I told you so.' I would have been happy if he made me look like a liar. For me, it's about the organization and the sport and he is an ambassador for the sport, so, when he does things like this, it affects everybody involved. If he is going to be champion, then he has to take responsibility pretty serious and know and that he is representing more than just himself with the choices that he makes."

Penick's Analysis: There are differing schools of thought on just where the responsibility lies for fighters, and Evans is going hard on the side of being subservient to the UFC. Jones stood up for himself and his career, something many who claim to support fighters' rights have wanted to see. For all of the talk of fighters needing a union to protect against the UFC or to help them in negotiations, etc., they were sure quick to turn on Jones when he made a decision that didn't go right in line with the UFC. At the same time, there is something to be said for what Evans argues here. Jones was given a massive opportunity because of an injury, though he and Shogun had considerably more time to prepare for their bout than what would have been the case for Jones and Sonnen. They aren't the same situation, but there is some sense to the idea that Jones may have owed something to the UFC given the exposure he's received. Still, owing the organization to the detriment of his professional career isn't necessarily a good situation, either. There are plenty of wrinkles and arguments that make sense on both sides, but ultimately it doesn't matter in the end, because the decision's been made.

[Rashad Evans art by Grant Gould (c)]


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