Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
Last week, a few eyebrows were raised when it was revealed that the UFC will be sponsoring its light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones for his upcoming title bout against Rashad Evans. As Jones explained during a recent conference call, the agreement came about when past primary sponsor Form Athletics shut down, and Jones sought out one main sponsor instead of entering the cage as a human billboard.
He'll essentially be showcasing new UFC merchandise, and so, some might theorize, the promotion will have a rooting interest in his success in the match.
The flip side of that theory, of course, is that if they have a rooting interest in one fighter, the second man in the cage seems unwanted. At best, it seems unfair. At worst, it seems biased.
If you were Evans, that might not sit too well with you. After all, the veteran has been around longer than Jones. He's also been a company ambassador and never had any outside-of-the-cage problems that reflected badly on the UFC. In short, he's done everything right, yet the advertising dollars are headed the young champion's way.
Evans (17-1-1) doesn't perceive the situation any different than most who have heard about it, but neither is it something that he'll let affect him.
"I guess it is what it is," he said on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "It seems they got their guy that they’re going to get behind, I guess. I can’t really say too much about that. I just got to go in there and do what I need to do. I can't really worry about that. I can't really worry about who they favor or who they may like. It doesn’t change anything."
Jones has come to be considered a massive favorite in the fight, nearly 6-to-1 in some places, even though Evans has only one career loss on his fight ledger.
It seems that the public isn't the only one betting on him. When asked if he believes the UFC is favoring Jones on fight night, Evans couldn't deny the possibility.
"If they’re sponsoring him, it may seem that way," he said. "But you know, honestly, it doesn't matter if they favor him or not. They have guys they want to get behind, so if they want to get behind him, that's on them. It doesn’t bother me though."
The fight will bring the long-awaited conclusion to their long-simmering feud. On Monday's show, Evans also seemed to indicate that his anger for Jones has waned since the two have "talked it out" through their public war of words and a few private meetings during appearances.
The same doesn't hold true for his former coach Greg Jackson, who he accused of protecting his own interests ahead of longtime camp members.
But Evans is ready to put all the bickering aside. He's tired of talking about it, and has been for a long time. It's finally about time to fight, and for him, that's what matters the most.
"When it comes down to it, I started to fight because I love to fight and I was good at it," he said. "I still want it to remain the same. Even though I don't like Jon, and all the whole back story, and the whole Greg situation, at the end of the day, this is what I really love to do, and I'm going to keep that mindset throughout this whole week and throughout this fight."
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