ATLANTA -- This has been a different kind of fight week. For one thing it’s about 24 hours before showtime and UFC president Dana White is not here. That’s not the norm, but it might be going forward due to White’s participation in TUF: Live. He’s usually the UFC’s No. 1 hype man, and whether you like him or not, the event feels just a little bit smaller when he’s not around.
That said, UFC 145’s main event still feels big. It's generated serious buzz, but no clear fan favorite. Both Rashad Evans and Jon Jones received their fair share of boos at Friday’s weigh-ins. Evans certainly got a bit more applause, but it sounds like the kind of crowd that could be swayed by seeing something spectacular on fight night. The fight and the fans are both there for the taking.
Around Atlanta, there are "Jones vs. Evans" signs on street lights. Around the sports world, others are taking notice. LeBron James tweeted Jones earlier this week, putting his stamp on him as an athletic star. Meanwhile, the NFL Network has a camera crew following Jones and his family around during fight week for a draft day feature on Jon’s brother Arthur, while Rashad Evans went to the TNT studios this week and visited with Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley. Suffice it to say, this is a big deal for the UFC, for Jones, and Evans.
There's been plenty said, and we've rounded up some of the best quotes from the week to take you into fight night.
Rashad Evans, on when his relationship with Jones started to change:
"Jon was like a super-eager happy kid. Like, super excited about everything. First time I met him was at the UFC Expo. And then Greg told him he was going to train with us for his camp. And he was like, 'Oh man, I’m so excited to be part of the team,' to the point I was like, 'OK, I get it. Back up a little.' He was an excited kid. He carried that enthusiasm for a while but then people started to get in his ear. And I think that’s when things started to get to him because he’s not a very confident person. I know he’s not. He says all those things but he’s very insecure."
Jon Jones, on when his relationship with Evans started to change:
"I think the real problem started when I realized I had the opportunity to do something and I really focused my life and focused my dedication to the sport. I used to go out and party and do immature things, and I think that’s what he’s talking about when he says you guys don’t know things about me. Yeah, I go out and drink every once in a while. I’m 24. So I think he looked at how wild I used to be as someone who could never compete with him and get on that level with him. And I think he realized once I dedicated myself to martial arts and changed my personal life and private life. I changed a lot. He knows that I’m not the kid I used to be. And I think that’s when the real problem came. He realized that OK, this kid actually could become something special here. And that’s when the problem truly came."
Greg Jackson, on Evans' assertion that Jackson could no longer focus on him because of his many commitments:
"It’s both yes and no. I’m always focused on my fighters and always focused on the team. I don’t have the luxury of focusing on one guy. That’s why we have a lot of coaches there. Because the team shares. We give and we take, and I have responsibility to a lot of people. So, yes, I still focused on Rashad, but yes, I still focused on the team."
Georges St-Pierre, on watching former teammate Evans fight current teammate Jones:
"It’s hard to say who will win. It’s hard for me. It happens all the time, I have two guys that I know fighting each other. It’s happened before. It’s entertaining because of all the emotion involved, but it’s hard. I wish them both good luck."
Travis Browne, on whether, as some suggest, Jones should be fighting at heavyweight:
"Why? He’s doing so good at light-heavyweight, why move up to heavyweight? He’s cutting weight so easily. It’s not like he has a hard cut and it affects him in his fights. Stay at light-heavyweight."
Rory MacDonald, on whether another teammate vs. teammate rivalry is lingering with him and St-Pierre:
"Me and Georges are teammates and friends, so it’s not going to get to that point of Rashad and Jones. I understand people want to see that drama, but I’m not big into drama. Me and Georges will work together and hopefully he retires or moves up or whatever. I’ll wait my turn."
Che Mills, on whether the fight with MacDonald is too much, too soon:
"No, definitely not. When you first hear, you get some nerves. He’s a good guy. But at the same time, it’s the UFC. What else are you here for?"
Stephen Thompson, on Matt Brown's style as an opponent:
"He’s an aggressive guy. He comes straight forward, which is alright for me. But we’ll see if he wants to stand there and bang. I know he’s a banger, but something tells me he’s going to want to take it to the ground."
Matt Brown, on whether he'll actually want to take it to the ground:
"I’m probably as worried if not more worried about his ground game than I am his standup. Because I’ve seen his standup. I’ve watched a bunch of his kickboxing matches. I’ve watched his MMA fights. I’ve seen his standup. I know what he’s going to try to do. His ground game? I have no g------ clue. Who knows? He could be Rickson Gracie on the mat. Try to take him down and you end up twisted up like a pretzel."
Miguel Torres, on his new style
"People say, ‘Oh, Miguel shouldn’t have changed his game. Miguel abandoned his old ways.’ My old ways were reckless. It’s easy to judge without you being in that situation. I didn’t know what was wrong because it was working. And I haven’t totally changed everything. I’m trying to adapt the new style to the old style, and it takes time."
Michael McDonald, on Torres' new style:
"I think he’s a little less aggressive, and honestly I think that’s a mistake. He had, what, like a 30-fight win streak while being aggressive? And he got knocked out once? I think that got him a whole lot farther than changing his style did. I think you should stick to what got you where you here."