Evans characterizes their fight as a clash between an knowledgeable veteran and a callow youth who once sought his advice. Jones remembers their relationship in the opposite light.
"I really didn't learn anything from him," Jones says. "People have this idea in their head that he taught me how to fight. … He learned from me more than I learned from him, I believe."
USA TODAY spoke to Jones recently about the upcoming fight. Excerpts from the conversation:
Q: You wanted a break after beating Lyoto Machida in December. How much time off did you get?
Jones: I definitely got to take a little time off. I got to do a lot of traveling when I wasn't fighting. I didn't really do much training. I got to travel all across the United States. I did a few seminars, did a lot of appearances, signed a lot of autographs, which is really cool.
I got to expand my name a little bit and the name of the UFC. It was great for me. I also had to do a lot of work on legalizing MMA in New York state.
So it was cool. I got time off from the physical labor, but in some ways I was still working.
How do the breaks help you as a fighter?
I think when I'm taking that time off from the physical part, it gives my mind a chance to just rest; my body to rest from the damage; my mind to rest from the stress. Helps me a lot.
When I come back, I feel like my creativity's just on fire. My passion is just on fire. I think passion is one of the biggest parts of any (endeavor), truly loving what you do.
A lot of the guys who are at the gym every day, they just seem so bored with it. I come back just ready to get my fix back, get my timing back, get it all back. It keeps me extremely passionate to have those long breaks.
Given the amount of time that this fight has been building, has it weighed on you at all, with people asking you about Rashad all the time and him always hammering away at you in interviews? Does that irritate you?
No, it doesn't irritate me. It prepares me. I'm through all the talking about Rashad and thinking about him and studying him and reading all his interviews and what he thinks about me and what he has to say.
It just humanizes him more and more and more, to the point where I'm not fighting Rashad. I'm just fighting this object, this subject.
It's like preparing all year for a homework assignment. You can never be (too) prepared. You can never know your opponent enough.
So it's always cool when he throws out a new quote and he'll whine how he feels about me. Or at the gym, be watching his videos over and over again. … You really get to know everything about the guy.
I get intrigued and aroused by challenges and things like that, rather annoyed by it.
You've often said that Rashad's confidence is based on a single day in practice. How often did you get the better of him in training?
I got the better of him a lot in training.
What Rashad has done, he took one day in 2010, just amplified it, making a whole base of people believing he's a way superior grappler than me. It's interesting.
I've said on numerous occasions that there (were) numerous occasions where I could have landed strikes that would have split his forehead wide open — and I know it would have — and I pulled back out of respect for it being my teammate.
Rashad held me down at a practice. Because he used all his might to keep me to the ground, he wasn't able to punch me or submit me. Holding me down does nothing to my cardio; does nothing to my face or nothing to my body. It's not damaging whatsoever.
But when I say about all the times I could have really landed devastating things to him, but I just stopped right before it actually hit him — that was me being a good teammate. This time I'll actually go through with those actions.
Yeah, 2010, I'll admit, he was definitely a little bit better than me. He was definitely in his prime. Maybe a little bit stronger of a grappler in 2010.
But I truly believe in my heart that he's slightly slowing down. I believe that I'm speeding up to the point where he's going to possibly be finished in this fight.
What gives you that belief? Many people would say he looked quite good in his last two fights.
With all due respect — Tito Ortiz (is) at the end of his career. He beat Tito, and Tito (before beating Ryan Bader) had lost, what, five fights in a row or something?
Then he fought Phil Davis. Phil Davis is very young in this sport. He has a lot of learning to do.
He couldn't even finish Phil Davis. I realized in that fight, he (Rashad) didn't execute one double-leg takedown. Double leg used to be his bread and butter. All the takedowns that he got was catching a leg kick and getting him to fall over, tipping him down.
I just watch the young Rashad and I see so much the speed and the constant movement and the double leg that used to be so powerful. Now I just see a very slow (re)gression. I see somebody who's getting older, getting more comfortable.
I just think there's this fire that you have when you first start at something. You want to be the best. You want to train. You want to give it all you've got.
Now he's just comfortable. I think he's getting a little comfortable.
Obviously he's very motivated for this fight. But I think his best foot forward is just not at the same level as it used to be. And I think that I'm speeding up.
Did you get what I say by that? Even his hardest is not what it used to be?
It sounds like you're saying his best days are behind him.
In some ways. I'm just saying even though I believe in my heart that he's training extremely hard, I just don't believe his extremely hard is extremely hard compared to what he used to be.
Are you saying that he's not being as challenged as much in his current camp as he was in Albuquerque?
I don't know. I don't know what he's going through. I don't think he can constantly push as hard as he used to.
His absolute best effort isn't his all-time best effort. I think his absolute best effort was when he was younger, when he hadn't gotten so many concussions.
During the time that you trained with Rashad, what did you learn from him as a fighter?
Honestly, I learned nothing from Rashad. Rashad didn't teach me anything.
I learned a lot about being tougher from Greg Jackson. I learned a lot about kickboxing from coach Winkeljohn. I learned a lot just being around my teammates.
But Rashad? I really didn't learn anything from him. People have this idea in their head that he taught me how to fight.
We've honestly only really trained together maybe on 12 different occasions.
He actually came out in interviews and said he was so intrigued by my passion and just my enthusiasm about the sport. He learned from me more than I learned from him, I believe. Teaching him things about how to meditate and focus on the fight. "Hey listen, you've got to try this. Maybe you can try that move and switch it."
He was just like, "Wow, look at this kid who's just so on fire about this game. I need to get some of this spunk back."
I looove martial arts. I'm obsessed with it. Martial arts is my baby. ... It's not my moneymaker. It's my all. It's my world. It's my enthusiasm. It's my livelihood outside of my kids. And I think my fire was inspiring to him.
So wholeheartedly and honestly, I didn't learn anything from Rashad. He boxes and shoots a double-leg (takedown). That's it. He doesn't throw funky kicks or look for these interesting techniques that no one's done before. He's just very basic.
Greg Jackson originally wanted to stay out of this fight, but he has decided to work with you, after all. How much of a difference does that make in your preparation?
It makes a huge difference. Originally, Greg was going to coach me, work with me, but not actually corner me. Now that Greg has decided to work with me and corner me, it's going to be huge. It's going to be gigantic.
I don't think Rashad actually realizes how much Greg knows about him. Rashad always talks about him holding me down in practice and him knowing my number and knowing how to beat me. He doesn't realize that he trained with Jackson-Winkeljohn for almost eight years, and these guys know everything about him.
We know what he does when he's going to flinch. We know which way his head is going to lean when he flinches. We know everything about him. We know his favorite guard passes. Everything about him.
You don't just forget. We know what his work ethic was. We know what gets him tired.
We know eeeeverything about him. Everything. Absolutely everything. He's silly to just look over that and think that he knows me, when we know him.
How much do you think Rashad might have changed since leaving Jackson's?
No way. No way. You watch his fights. He still has the same protocols that Greg Jackson taught him. I mean, Greg Jackson is his foundation.
Rashad started working with Greg Jackson right after The Ultimate Fighter TV show. Even if he tries to get new ideas, he's still just the same fighter.
He said in an interview recently, "There are some things about Jon Jones' game that you just can't change." It's funny because I feel the same exact way about him.
Only difference is, every fight of mine has looked completely different. Every fight of his has been extremely consistent.
Rashad accuses you of presenting a false image to the world. How much do you change your image, depending on the particular audience at the moment?
I don't change my image at all. I believe that I'm a man with a lot of character. A lot of character.
I can talk to you about politics. I can talk to you about family. I can talk to you about religion. I can talk to you about warrior spirit and martial arts. I can sit here and joke with you and be extremely charismatic.
I'm a person with a lot of personality, a lot of character.
As far as calling me fake, Rashad doesn't know me well enough to call me fake. It's as simple as that. He doesn't know me.
We've had a few nice dinners. We've gone out a few times. But to call me fake — there are very few people in this world who even know me that well to call me fake.
So I think him calling me fake — it's just a way of him trying to distract my energy. Just trying to distract my attention to focus on maybe my personality or something, and not focus in on his technique and the actual fight.
I love the fact that he's focused on who I am as a person, because I'm focusing on who he is as a fighter. That's really the only reason why I'm here.
As you noted earlier, UFC has been promoting you as one of the major representatives of the organization. How comfortable are you with that role, and do you see yourself on the same level as guys like Georges St. Pierre and Anderson Silva?
I'm very comfortable with the UFC putting me out there and trying to use me as one of the guys to promote the sport and bring it to a new level. I'm honored that they respect that I'll do well by the opportunity.
I think if I was a knucklehead and I was a guy who you would have to worry about getting a DWI or going out and doing something really stupid, they simply wouldn't promote me. I think they see the guy that I am and they trust that, even though I'm a 24-year-old, I'm a trustworthy 24-year-old. I'm a company guy and they trust in me.
They're purposely trying to get everybody to know who I am, and it's for a reason. I think I said it best the first time: If I was a total knucklehead, they just wouldn't do that.
Lorenzo Fertitta, the guy's a billionaire. I think he trusts that I would never embarass him in front of his friends.
Do you see yourself on the same pedestal as GSP and Anderson?
My goal is not to be a pedestal, really. My goal is to be the best me that I can be, and just really have my own story and try for my own personal greatness.
Assuming you beat Rashad, how much longer do you think you'll stay at 205 before moving to heavyweight?
I think heavyweight would be something that I would entertain more toward 2013, maybe even the end of 2013.
But right now, I could care less what those heavyweights are up to. I've got a lot work left at the light-heavyweight division.
@UFC LHW champion @JonnyBones "aspires to my own personal greatness"