UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones may only be 24-years-old, but the inimitable young fighter has sliced through the 205lbs division with little resistance, adding wins over a list of legends to his already impressive resume.
Next month at UFC 145, in what will be his third attempted title defense, Jones will face his rival and former training partner Rashad Evans, whom many predict could be Bones' toughest test to date. A former champion himself, Evans spent long hours with Jones on the mat at Jackson-Winkeljohn's in Albuquerque, when the now-imposing champion was still more talent and promise than polished goods.
As Jones took the spotlight and Evans nursed injuries on the sidelines, a still-widening rift formed between the two men that saw their rivalry cemented when Evans split from Jackson's. Seeing it as another defining moment for his career, Jones intends to prove to Evans and the world that he's far from the same fighter Evans knew well.
"My title defense at UFC 145 will be the biggest fight the UFC has seen in years," says Jones. "Sports fans from around the world will want to tune in for this pay-per-view, as they know it will be an all-out war.
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"My opponent and I have a storied history that has been well-documented. He thinks he knows everything I bring to the table, but a lot has changed since he left the gym a year ago. I'm a much different fighter than the one he trained with. I hope he is ready to see and feel that difference."
When Jones fought Shogun Rua for the title, we wondered if he could match the champion's experience. Against Rampage, we questioned his ability to take a real punch. Before he took on Machida, we asked if the karateka's style would be too much for him. Against each man, Jones shattered our doubts.
With many wondering aloud whether or not Evans' past training experience with Jones will give him the insight to topple the champion, Jones intends to shatter doubts once again.
"I have been able to prove many of my doubters wrong over the course of the last 12 months," he says. "Some said I couldn't submit a legend, and I did that. Some said I couldn't take a punch, and I did that. Now some are saying that I will have trouble against someone who knows me so well.
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"They are wrong. Wait until they see what I do on April 21."
UFC 145 goes down at the Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia.
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