File Photo: Sherdog.com
Prior to their stint on the tenth season of “The Ultimate Fighter” reality show, former UFC light heavyweight champions Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Rashad Evans were already attempting to fight each other.
During a teleconference promoting UFC 114 “Rampage vs. Evans” on Tuesday, Jackson stated that the UFC attempted to match him up against Evans for UFC 96 last March, but Evans turned down the fight. Jackson faced Evans’ training partner, Keith Jardine, instead, winning a unanimous decision. Following the bout, Evans confronted Jackson in the cage and a rivalry was born.
Although the aforementioned plan is common knowledge to some fans, Jackson claims that UFC President Dana White informed him that Evans turned down a clash last March in order to keep his newly-won belt around his waist for a longer period of time.
“When you called me right after the (expletive) Wanderlei (Silva) fight, and you asked me to fight Rashad, what did I say?” Jackson asked White. “I said yes. So you called me back and said what afterwards? When I ended up fighting Jardine, what did you say? You said that Rashad didn’t take the fight because he wanted to keep his belt longer.
“The first time you called me I said I didn’t want to fight because it was right after my other fight, but then you pushed me and I said ‘Aw, you hyped me up, I’m doing push-ups right here in the parking lot’. You said alright and then you called Rashad and he turned it down. It was right after his fight with Forrest (Griffin).”
Evans took it upon himself to clear things up.
“I had a baby in November (2008) and I was in training camp then and didn’t get to see him, that’s why I said no to March,” Evans said. “Are you sure you want to fight? You mean like the last time you wanted to fight? Or are you going to call Dana next week and tell him you can’t fight?”
In questioning Jackson’s commitment, Evans referred to UFC 98 last May, which saw Evans fall in his first title defense to Lyoto Machida. The UFC brass had hoped to match Evans and Jackson up at the event, but Jackson opted to take some time off after fighting twice in three months and recover from an existing jaw injury.
While White said he didn’t remember exactly what he told Jackson, he did acknowledge having the conversation with the Pride Fighting Championships veteran following his victory over Silva. Having come to the realization that both fighters have inadvertently avoided fighting each other until now, Evans called things “even” between the two.
“You didn’t take the fight either, so now we’re even then, right?” Evans asked Jackson. “I didn’t turn down the fight. But let me tell you something, if the fight was in my hometown, I would have never turned down that fight, that’s all I’m saying. But that’s you, so don’t worry about it.”