clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Rashad Evans, Rampage Jackson and Why Rivalry Equals Respect

LAS VEGAS -- Spend enough time around Rashad Evans and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, and you begin to wonder if they wish this whole trash-talk thing never began. Sure it's going to make them a lot of money at UFC 114, but it's also clear that they're both ready to fight and move on.

Rashad's tired of hearing about Rampage, and Rampage is tired of hearing about Rashad. The questions are often repetitive and tiring.

Is the feud real? How did it begin? Will it be squashed after Saturday night? In the end, every fighter knows that trash talk is sound and fury, signifying nothing. The result is what's going to be remembered and recorded.

"There is nothing else left to say," Evans said after a recent workout at the MGM Grand. "I don't like him, he don't like me. He thinks I talk too much, I think he talks too much."

If you listen long enough, though, you're bound to have your doubts about just how deep these waters run, Evans doesn't like Jackson, but it's not likely he hates him. And sure, Jackson wants to knock Evans out, but that doesn't exactly make it a unique situation in the MMA world.

When you get to a certain level of MMA, or sports for that matter, you look for anything that will drive you to the next level. That's why the concept of "bulletin-board material" exists. That's why Michael Jordan would find any perceived slights to fuel his fire. And yes, that's why fighters engage in trash talk.

In some ways, the fighters are creating their ideal opponent in their minds to motivate them and push them to be their best. After all, most goals are manufactured in our minds. They only matter if they matter.

If you need proof, here's what Jackson said when he was asked whether Evans was simply playing head games all the way along.

"That's the wrong way, that's a bad idea," he said. "It motivated me to train harder than I ever trained. When I fought Wanderlei [Silva], I trained really hard. After that fight, I thought, 'I didn't think I could train so hard... For this one, I trained way harder. I trained like it was a championship fight, five rounds. And then after my last round, I wanted another. It was motivation. I'm glad he did it. It was a bad idea to get under my skin."

In effect, Evans' words are another tool in Jackson's belt. Some of us need coffee or an energy drink to get motivated, but Jackson and Evans need only hear echoes of each other.

But the subtext beneath of it all isn't quite so bleak.

Evans, in particular, has been more open lately to showing a few hints of respect for Jackson. He mentioned in a recent conference call that in his early days in the sport, Jackson was the fighter he looked up to the most. He equated meeting Jackson on stage for Wednesday's pre-fight press conference to "like old friends meeting again." He doused the media reaction to Jackson's stoic demeanor during fight week, saying "Whenever you're a funny person, you've got to be funny all the time, but sometimes you don't want to be funny." And he admitted that when this is all over, he's going to pay money to watch Jackson play Mr. T in The A-Team.

That doesn't sound like someone with any real anger in his heart.

Jackson is a little harder to analyze, and he seems to take it more personally. He hasn't been in an overly talkative mood this week, though people close to him say that he's in a good mood away from his press responsibilities since he has his family with him.

But he hasn't really done anything to bad-mouth Evans' abilities, either. In fact, he complimented his speed and takedowns. But Jackson has made reference to the fact that he is ready for it all to be over. The feeling seems to be mutual.

"This fight is a title fight for me, and I haven't thought about anything past it ," Evans said. "I've been wanting it for a while. It's a year in the making, all the talk, all the buildup. I just want to get it over with and do it."

The two have lived with the prospect of fighting each other for 14 months, and it's been nearly a year since production of season 10 of The Ultimate Fighter gave the hype train its forward momentum. It's been a slow roll since then, and the two have done what they could to keep their engines fired. After Saturday night, the two will most likely share relief that it's finally over, but they might also admit they share another common feeling that's been there all along: respect.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the MMA Fighting Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your fighting news from MMA Fighting