Rashad Evans believes Jon Jones can ‘turn things around’

Rashad Evans knows Jon Jones like few others. The two former champions spent years on Greg Jackson's mats, trying to build one another up,…

By: Tim Bissell | 7 years ago
Rashad Evans believes Jon Jones can ‘turn things around’
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

Rashad Evans knows Jon Jones like few others. The two former champions spent years on Greg Jackson’s mats, trying to build one another up, before Evans traded the desert for the beaches of south Florida in 2011. A year later, the two men sought to break each other down – inside the octagon, at UFC 145.

Though not perfect, Evans’ perspective on Jon Jones is unique and ‘Suga’ has been a keen observer in the soap opera-like twists and turns that have befallen the pound-for-pound king. With Jones’ return to the octagon immanent, Evans feels positive and hopeful about the path waiting for his former (and possible future) foe.

“You know, I believe that Jon, he can turn things around,” said Evans in an exclusive interview with Bloody Elbow.

“I believe that it’s just… he needs to be honest with himself, always, through and through, and allow himself to be vulnerable enough to get the help that he needs in the areas that he needs help in.

“I don’t think any one of us is above making mistakes, but it’s about when you make mistakes in life, who do you have to reel you back in? To hold that mirror up in front of you? To tell you, ‘Hey, take a look at yourself’, ‘Is this what you really want?’, ‘Where do you see yourself heading off at?’, because it’s one thing for me to say – to preach on you and tell you this and tell you that – but if you don’t see it in yourself, what you need to do, then you’ll never change.”

This is just a gift that we’re able to give to the fans, and we are blessed enough physically to do, but at the end of the day, life is bigger than the cage. Rashad Evans

Evans stated that, more than anything, he feels that Jones needs a support system around him to ‘hold that mirror’ and teach him that there is more to life than just fighting. “Life is bigger than just the life in the octagon,” said Evans. “This is just a gift that we’re able to give to the fans, and we are blessed enough physically to do, but at the end of the day, life is bigger than the cage. It is. And, if you miss all of that, you’ve really missed the whole thing.”

As Evans spoke of the troubles that have swirled around Jones, his voice exposed a knowledge that only someone who had experienced something similar could master.

“Yeah, I’ve definitely had my pitfalls and made bad decisions,” revealed Evans. “As far as the people I hung around with, and things I allowed myself to be distracted with, you know, I’m not above any kind of mistakes at all.

“My mistakes may not be as well documented, but it’s just something that happens, that comes with the territory, and I feel that one thing that I’ve been able to do is just have a bit of self-reflection and just really be honestly humbled by the bad situations, by the things that I know needed to change.

“I think that’s what the biggest difference is, when you hold yourself accountable, when you humble yourself, and you say, ‘You know what, I made these mistakes, and I want to do better.'”

Though he wishes Jones well, that doesn’t stop Evans from wanting to damage him inside the cage at the next opportunity. When Daniel Cormier fell out of his match-up with Jones at UFC 197, that opportunity almost came sooner than Evans had expected.

“I let my managers know that I was definitely down,” said Evans of the race to fill Cormier’s slot at UFC 197. According to Evans, his managers engaged with the UFC brass over the potential rematch and at one point Evans’ team was ‘making some traction.’ However, it was the upstart Ovince Saint Preux who eventually won the sweepstakes. Evans’ isn’t sure when he slipped out of contention for the fight, but he’s far from bitter.

Evans will instead keep his plans to face Glover Teixeira on April 16th, in a match that is now the main event, thanks to an injury to Tony Ferguson.

Evans said he was ‘happy’ about the sudden change in billing, which will now see him potentially fight five rounds instead of three.

“The opportunity to be the main event on a big show like this is huge,” said Evans. “And it says something about the faith the UFC has in me to book me in the position to be the closer of the show.”

Evans said he’d be lying if he said the possibility of five rounds of fighting hadn’t forced him to change both physical preparations and strategies for the fight. However, the biggest hurdle thrown into the mix is, according to Evans, something entirely different.

“The championship rounds just break down to a mentality,” advised Evans. “The third round – when you give everything you got – I mean, you go back into the corner heading into the fourth and you think, ‘Damn I just gave that everything that I got in that third round’, and then you get that panic, it’s just getting over that mental hump, but that’s just mental preparation more than anything.”

Evans stated that the overall preparation for the Teixeira has been difficult, given the change in opponent (Mauricio Rua was originally scheduled) and the change in billing, combined with a two year lay-off. Although, he’s happy to have been given such a challenge and feels he’ll be better for it.

The greatest challenge may be yet to come, in the form of a streaking Glover Teixeira, and Evans’ isn’t afraid to admit that he has his hands full with the powerful Brazilian.

“Glover’s as tough as they come,” said Evans. “Glover’s a guy who comes forward and he bring all the pressure, he’s got two hammers in both hands and he likes to just hit you with them, and he can!”

Evans said that he believes Teixeira’s been fighting with a ‘chip on his shoulder’ since his loss to Jon Jones and that, in his most recent contests, the former sparring partner of Chuck Liddell has shown great improvements and a more well-rounded game.

In preparation for this bout, Evans – along with his regular Blackzillians team – worked with Chris Luttrell, a coach Evans credits as guiding Greg Jackson in the development of his Gaidojutsu system. Luttrell, who worked with Evans during his time at Jackson’s, was in Evans’ camp to help the former champ ‘touch up a few things.’

Henri Hooft has of course been instrumental in Evans’ preparations. The Dutch kickboxing legend and Blackzillians head striking coach will also be cornering Evans for the fight.

Hooft’s cornering style has raised eyebrows as of late. In particular, it is Hooft’s gruff tone with fighters that has stood out. Evans wouldn’t change a thing about it.

“Henri is going to give it to your straight, no matter what,” said Evans.

“I don’t like to go to the corner and have, ‘Ah, yeah you did great that round.’ No! If I did like s**t, I want you to tell me, I did like s**t. You know what I’m saying?”

Evans doesn’t see Hooft changing his style any time soon and he believes the rest of his camp are in agreement that the aggressive cornering style yields results and the fighters like knowing that if they under perform they’re going to get ‘cussed out’ between rounds.

Like Hooft’s cornering style, the Blackzillians camp itself has been subject to not-always-positive chatter on the internet.

In the wake of Vitor Belfort’s departure from the team, some have questioned the long-term sustainability of the gym.

Evans couldn’t care less about those opinions.

When you allow yourself to be built on the words of other people, you have to understand that those same words can tear you down. Rashad Evans

“When you allow yourself to be built on the words of other people, you have to understand that those same words can tear you down,” offered Evans. “It doesn’t matter what a writer writes about us, or how many people say what we’re supposed to do, at the end of the day, we still need to go in there and do what we need to do, and that’s win.”

Evans was quick to confirm that there is zero animosity between himself and Belfort. Evans said he supports Belfort, whom he still considers a great friend, and might even train with Belfort at his new gym, which is located close to where Evans lives.

Evans is still very committed to the future of the Blackzillians and believes the team has a long future in developing homegrown talent and further developing established UFC fighters (Evans claimed that newcomer Clint Hester could be the team’s breakout star of 2016).

Evans hopes to get at least two more fights in 2016. Although retirement does not currently dominate his thoughts, he knows it’s coming sooner rather than later.

As an Ultimate Fighter winner, UFC champion, and owner of some of the most sensational knockouts in the promotions’ history – Evans could very likely hear his name in conversations pertaining to the ethereal UFC Hall of Fame.

Asked if he thought his body of work was worthy of enshrinement, Evans pondered aloud, “Um, you know, that’s a tough question, I would like to think so, but at the end of the day… who knows?”

“I feel like I put in a lot of work and I haven’t really sat down and looked to analyze myself in that light, I’m still just too close to it, you know, I can’t really admire the painting and see the beauty of it because I’m standing two inches from it. I’m just too close, once I take a step back in my life, and really look, you know? All the work I’ve compiled, and how I competed, then I can give you an honest answer, but now, I dunno.”

You can watch Rashad Evans continue to build his potential HOF resume this Saturday, in the main event of UFC on FOX: Teixeira vs. Evans.

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About the author
Tim Bissell
Tim Bissell

Tim Bissell is a writer, editor and deputy site manager for Bloody Elbow. He has covered combat sports since 2015. Tim covers news and events and has also written longform and investigative pieces. Among Tim's specialties are the intersections between crime and combat sports. Tim has also covered head trauma, concussions and CTE in great detail.

Tim is also BE's lead (only) sumo reporter. He blogs about that sport here and on his own substack, Sumo Stomp!

Email me at tim@bloodyelbow.com. Nice messages will get a response.

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