What a difference a year makes.
Less than 365 days ago, newly-crowned UFC light heavyweight champ Jon Jones appeared on MMAScraps Radio and told Pat Barry, who was then the co-host of the show, that there was no way, no how he would ever fight a teammate, especially not “his brother Rashad Evans.”
Jones’ change of heart has caused a rift in Albuquerque which caused Evans to move his camp from Team Jackson to Imperial Athletics in Boca Raton Florida, where he will train with displaced former members of American Top Team who have set up shop there including Gesias “JZ” Cavalcante, Jorge Santiago and the Villefort brothers.
In the interview, Jones backed Evans recent revelation that he had to agree to never fight any of his Jackson teammates as a condition of joining the revered fight team — a clause he later publicly reneged on prompting the former champ to accept the offer to face his heir apparent and former training partner. Interestingly, even when Barry tried at length to convince Jones that fighting a teammate wasn’t a big deal, “Bones” didn’t waver in his stance that it simply wouldn’t happen. He even went so far as to say that if pressed by the UFC to fight Evans or Keith Jardine, he would find a way out of the bout even if it meant faking an injury.
Here’s the complete transcript of the interview:
Pat Barry: There’s been this thing going on with fighters lately — over the past few months, but especially lately. Dana White has finally come out and made a stand on it, but how do you feel about guys fighting their teammates, are you for it or are you against it?
Jon Jones: I’m against it, the only reason being is I’m a Jackson fighter. Before I got accepted to Greg Jackson’s team, Greg had a meeting with Rashad Evans and he had a meeting with Keith Jardine about whether or not they wanted to accept me as part of the team because they were there first and they had their established trainers and everything. They decided to accept me and they opened me up to the best training camp in the world — trainers, coaches, nutritionists — all that stuff that they had I now have. So I could never fight them. It would be like fighting one of my brothers, so…
Barry: So you would never, ever fight Rashad Evans?
Jones: Ummm…I would never ever fight Rashad Evans. Yes. Correct.
Co-host: Wait a minute. Hold on , Jon. I heard a ‘um’ for a second. What is that all about?
Barry: He thought about it.
Jones: Umm…I mean if the MONEY was right…(laughing).
Co-host: There we go! There it is!
Jones: (laughing) No.
Barry: What about for like a million dollars? What if I offered you a million dollars tonight?
Jones: I mean, I guess I would for a million dollars.
Barry: Would you fight Rashad Evans for 10 million dollars tomorrow?
Jones: (laughing) Tonight we’ll go at the gym. That’d be great. But, uh…We spar together every day, so I mean, for a million dollars I guess I could put the four-ounces on.
Co-host: I guess so. What about for a title? Less money, but more prestige?
Jones: No, not for a title. You know…
Barry: If he was number one and you were number two, you wouldn’t fight Rashad Evans to be the best in the world?
Jones: My goal would be to be the toughest contender that ever lived, regardless of the belt. I’m one of those guys. That’s all I got.
Co-host: That’s alright, Jon. You don’t have to apologize. We’re just trying to figure it out, man. It’s different for every person. You gotta understand that Pat comes from a K-1 background where that sort of thing doesn’t exist because in K-1 you almost have to fight one of your teammates. There’s so many fights, that’s the way it is.
Barry: I’ve fought my teammates, I’ve fought my friends, I mean that’s just where I’m comin’ from. I always said that the closer you get to the top of the mountain, the fewer the guys and the smaller the competition is because there’s only a few people who are stand-out elites. Some of us happen to be friends, some of us happen to be teammates and a lot of us are the same size and the same weight class, so eventually you’re gonna have to run across somebody you know or somebody you’re close with. You know what I mean? Eventually. I know a lot of people who are for it, Jon and a lot of people who are against it. I personally have no problem fighting a teammate only because I’ve always strived to be the best in the world.
Barry: Like I said, I’ve never met a fighter who looked forward to being third place. I’ve never met a prizefighter whose whole goal in life was to be the guy who never made it, who only was second best…
Barry:…and if your teammate happens to be the best in the world and you want that more than anything in the world, you’ve got to be willing to do anything and everything. I don’t think anybody’s crazy for not wanting to do it, it’s just my opinion. I don’t think it’s a problem fighting teammates.
Jones: Aw, you’re grinding me, man. That’s grinding me (laughing).
Co-host: No..no..no…listen. We’re not comin’ down on you.
Jones: I think that friendship is way more valuable than the money, you know?
Barry: But…but…but…what I’m saying — and this is the point I was making earlier — there are a lot of guys who say they don’t want to fight their friends because they don’t want to ruin their friendship. My thing is that your friendship can’t be that stable if something like this is going to ruin it.
Jones: Good point.
Barry: Your friendship has…something has to be wrong. Your friendship cannot be that stable or that solid if having a fight and one of you losing is going to possibly end your friendship. Something’s already wrong there. We’re all friends, we all depend on each other to make a living, we all depend on each other to get better and we all depend on each other to compete against. You need me and I need you. We all need each other like this is the circle that we’re in.
Barry: Like once we sign that contract, we have unconsciously agreed to fight damn near anybody. I mean, what if eventually there’s nobody left out of the guys in your weight class? Are you gonna gain weight, or are you gonna quit or are you gonna say, the hell with it, I’m never fighting for a title?
Co-host: More specifically, and this is the last question on this because Jon, I don’t wanna push you into a corner and we only got a couple minutes left with you, anyway. More specifically, Dana has said that this is gonna happen, so what’s gonna happen when Dana makes that call and says, ‘Listen. If you wanna stay in the UFC, you’ve gotta fight Keith Jardine or whoever.’ I mean, what happens then?
Jones: Ummm…I just think there’s lots of ways around it. You know, you could fake injuries. You could do anything. I mean, there’s just so many ways around it, you know? But before I joined the team that was the first conversation we had. It was just about friendship. Greg Jackson’s team is known for their brotherhood…our brotherhood. We treat each other with so much respect and love and genuine care. We have all of these great fighters in our camp who try their best to fight exactly like Brandon Vera for me when I’m getting ready for that fight. I’ve got guys giving me coaching advice after practice –guys who are UFC vets. There’s just no egos. These guys have opened my eyes on how to train like a pro athlete. It would be so wrong of me to use all that I’ve gained from them against them. It just won’t happen.
What a difference a year makes.