It is an awful feeling walking around with a chip on your shoulder. Even worse, to feel betrayed and left wanting answers as to why a great situation ended the way it did. The little headache that will not go away, the persistent nag that won’t leave. The way your pulse shoots up temporarily when recalling the good times and memories and knowing that it is all left in ruins now. The weight on both fighters’ shoulders right now must be unbearable. We see the interviews, we read what each has to say, but that is just the tip of the iceberg when dealing with their psyche at the moment. Each man has so much on their plate aside from the demands of training for their fight, I can not even begin to fathom the toll it is taking on them mentally and emotionally. It’s no secret that I am on Team Evans for this fight, however I respect both athletes and what they bring to the cage. Even more so, I emphasize with what each is going through in leading up to UFC 145. Jon Jones, the young, phenomenal champion that is hated as much as he is loved. Rashad Evans, the seasoned vet that is beyond jaded with his mentors and has something to prove; not just to the champion, but to his former camp, the fans, and the UFC.
Rashad Evans: The former alpha male and star pupil that helped mold Greg Jackson’s camp into what it is today. Sidelined by freak injuries and some bad decision making, he watched as his friend stepped up on short notice to fight for the UFC LHW strap. From there everything seemed to spiral out of control. Considered to be taken grossly out of context, Rashad learned that his teammate and friend was open to the idea of fighting him. As much as people hate the idea of a family like environment in a fight camp, Rashad still felt betrayed being called out by a member of his camp that he considered a friend and brother. Since then it’s been a bitter ride for the former ex-champ. He established himself with the Blackzillians and has made it well known of his disdain with his former team in Albuquerque. In his eyes, he lost not just a coach, team, and teammates, he feels he lost much more than that. He lost a father-figure, a mentor, a friend, a brother, loyalty and a family. The UFC is sponsoring his adversary and made it known relatively close to fight night, making him seem even more abandoned in seeing who his employers are favoring. April 21, 2012 Rashad Evans is looking for more than just a victory inside the cage. He is looking to make a statement that Jackson and MMA fans alike made the wrong choice by doubting his abilities since he lost the belt, and that respect to him is largely overdue.
Jon Jones: He is the now prized student at Jackson’s MMA, and young warrior that has people enthralled with his dazzling displays of violence inside the octagon. We watched in awe of his destruction of fan favorites Shogun Rua, Rampage Jackson and Lyoto Machida. We gazed with wonder as this prospect rose to the top of the LHW mountain. All of his achievements came with an unforeseen price tag that he is still trying to come to grips with. The young star finds himself under the microscope, for all fans of MMA to dissect every aspect of his existence. He has been called everything from a snake, to fake, to a backstabber, and the list goes on and on. A lot of it can be attributed to youth and an unprecedented rise to the top. Jones feels he has done nothing wrong, and hopes that tomorrow night he can maintain his belt, and perhaps even get what he has been aching to achieve since winning the belt, acceptance.
UFC 145 is not just a fight between Rashad and Jones, it has also split the MMA community in half. Right now, it’s time to be a little selfish in all of this; I am tired and exhausted as well. All of the arguments over both fighters and having to defend who, and why I’m rooting for that particular combatant. “You’re just a Jones hater!”, “Get off of Rashad’s nuts!...No, you get off of Jones’ nuts!”, “You’re just mad that Jones has ruined all of your favorite fighters!”, “Rashad is a whiner that needs to get over it!”. Honestly, I feel worn after all of these discussions and disagreements. Not to say that I haven’t enjoyed the back and forth debates over who we’re rooting for, but I think we as fans lose sight that we’re not the ones fighting on Saturday night. I hope I don’t come off as a sensitive sally here, I like discussing the strong and weak points in both fighters. It just seems lately, and really just particularly for this fight, people have been at each other’s throats for whom they are siding with. I don’t dislike you for going for Jones, and I hope your opinion of me is not lessened for rooting for Rashad. I’m so excited to see an extraordinary fight this Saturday, and even more excited for it to be over with so we can hug it out and grab a beer.
My wish for this Saturday night is for no flash KO’s. No early submissions or early stoppages. I want to see a 5 round war, where everything is left in that octagon. All the anger, the animosity, the jealousy, the bitterness, the hatred, and all of the demons that have built up in these two men, I hope it’s all released and laid to rest. With all the words and actions that have been said and done, it feels as if they have gone through the 5 Stages of Grief. Denial: At some point they must have gone numb and tried to ignore the complexity of was being unfolded before them. Anger: The pain and anguish both have felt has been expressed in almost every way possible. Bargaining; Dealing with the emotional pain of severed ties has had Rashad leave in order to deal with his pain. Jones and Jackson have tried reasoning with Evans to try to put out the flames but with no success. Depression: Jones can’t possibly feel great being pegged as the reason Rashad left, and worse, having his name drug across any mud pond one can find. Rashad is still dealing with his split from the man that influenced him the most in his fighting career. I want both men to achieve the last stage of grief, which is acceptance. It would be great if both fighters felt that everything that they had to say, was done with their respective skills in the octagon. That they can both move on, and if not become life long friends, at least have an undeniable respect for each other. I also really hope more than anything they can find that other missing piece, closure. Nothing wrong with a good fight, emotional or physical, but without closure, the fight is all in vain. It will continue to eat away from within, and they will never be the same people that they were before heading into this bout. I hope they finally get the closure that they both desperately need in order to further their respective careers.