Rashad Evans helped Jon Jones become the UFC light heavyweight championship, and now he'll get the opportunity to unseat him.
The one-time friends agreed to terms Monday to meet in the main event of UFC 145 in Atlanta on April 21 with Jones' light heavyweight belt at stake. The UFC announced Jan. 28 that Jones would defend the belt on that date, but didn't confirm that it would be Evans getting the bout until Monday.
Evans' hand was sore after his Jan. 28 victory over Phil Davis at the United Center in Chicago. He sought the advice of several doctors, all of whom cleared him to fight. The UFC had veteran Dan Henderson on standby to fight Jones in the event that Evans couldn't compete.
When Evans was medically cleared, what figures to be the most heated promotion in the UFC since Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz in 2006 was officially on.
"If I was fighting anybody for the belt at this point, there would be pressure, but there is added pressure in this situation because it's Jon and our whole personal situation," said Evans, who mentored Jones when both trained at Jackson's MMA in Albuquerque, N.M., until they had a bitter split last March.
"I'm very happy for what he's done in this sport and what he's accomplished for himself. He's worked hard for it, but that's where the respect and admiration stops. I don't care for him too much as a person."
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Jones was traveling Monday and was unavailable for comment.
The feud began not long after Jones replaced Evans in a title bout at UFC 128 against then-champion Mauricio "Shogun" Rua on March 19. Evans was supposed to challenge Rua for the belt, but injured his knee and had to withdraw.
The UFC offered the bout to Jones, and Jones has said he took it only after getting Evans' blessing. It is rare in mixed martial arts for teammates to fight and Jones and Evans weren't expected to meet after Jones won the championship.
But Evans said that an interview Jones did on Versus changed things. Jones said he would fight Evans, and that was the beginning of the end of their relationship.
"He was asked the question by Ariel Helwani and he said, 'I would fight Rashad if [UFC president] Dana White told us to, because I wouldn't want to get fired.' ” Evans said.
"But so what, say he did that interview or whatever, people say things during interviews. But at that point, if he'd have shot me a text and said, 'Listen, bro, this is what was said. This is what I meant by the whole thing,' it would have been all good. I never would have fought Jon."
Jones opened as a massive favorite, but Evans shrugged it off. He pointed out that when he fought in Atlanta previously at UFC 88, he was a huge underdog to Chuck Liddell, but knocked him out to earn a title shot.
He said he's trained with Jones and believes he can win. He cited Jones' inexperience as a big advantage. At 32, Evans is eight years older than Jones.
"His age [is his biggest weakness]," Evans said. "Jon doesn't know any better. Jon's biggest weakness is Jon, which you all will see."
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