Thursday, May 27, 2010 | 9:07 p.m.
Yes, Rashad Evans and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson are not fond of one another. That much is clear.
But believe it or not, it wasn't always this way.
When Jackson (30-7) first joined the UFC in 2007, he and Evans apparently got along just fine. Evans (19-1-1) admits he was even a Rampage fan.
"We'd say, 'What's up,' to each other," said Evans of the fighters' early interactions. "We did a photo shoot with Houston Alexander one time and it wasn't bad. I was actually a fan of his. I used to love watching Rampage fight.
"But now everything's changed."
With the highly anticipated grudge match set to finally take place Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, some MMA fans have found themselves loving but questioning the rivalry between Jackson and Evans.
While the two certainly seem to legitimately dislike each other, a rivalry built on the set of a reality television series is usually one that will carry some doubt.
If the final days before the fight have shown one thing, however, it's this — whatever it is these two have against each other, it's real.
The normally engaging and entertaining Jackson has shown nothing but discontent toward basically everyone this week.
During an session with media members following an open workout Thursday, Jackson appeared visibly irritated by many of the questions asked and even requested that people stop asking him "weird questions."
"I'm very focused on this fight and I'm tired of people asking me if I'm focused because of the movie and the layoff I've had," Jackson said. "For future reference guys, Rampage is a very mental fighter. Don't ask me weird questions."
When asked about Jackson's mood, Evans dismissed it by saying that's just what happens when people expect you to be the jokester all the time.
He went on to add, however, that the amount of trash talk leading up to the fight has probably gotten to his opponent.
"That's how he is, hot and cold," Evans said. "Whenever you're the funny person you have to be funny all the time and that's a lot of pressure. Sometimes you don't want to be funny.
"He probably has let the trash talk get the better of him. He probably needs to take a chill pill and understand it's just fighting."
Jackson's training partner Michael Bisping, has also noticed the change in his friend and said Thursday it shows just how deep his ill feelings towards Evans are.
"He's definitely in nasty mode right now," Bisping said. "He's alright with me but some his sparring partners may paint a different picture. He's got a big fight coming up. He's upset and he wants to kill Rashad. So, good luck Rashad."
The fighters will see each other one final time during Friday's weigh-in at the Mandalay Bay Events Center before going their separate ways until the fight arrives.
No matter what happens when the two finally enter the octagon Saturday, one thing is for sure: Neither fighter will be doing any acting for the sake of entertaining the fans.
"It's true, I don't know what else to say," Evans said. "I don't like him and he doesn't like me."
Jackson said he's tired of people asking him if he's focused for this fight. His feelings are warranted. Fans need only to look at his 13-week training camp to know he's taking this fight seriously.
The 31-year-old fighter said he's prepared himself for anything that Evans brings to the octagon Saturday night during his camp at the Wolfslair gym stationed in the United Kingdom.
"I trained for everything," Jackson said. "I trained for him to kick my lower leg. I trained for him to take me down and lay and pray. I trained for him to stand with me, shoot on me, pin me up against the cage — who knows what he's going to do? Whether he shoots on me more or less, I'm prepared for it."
The general consensus seems to be that Evans is the quicker fighter while Jackson is the more powerful one.
Evans relied on his wrestling background in his last fight against the dangerous striker Thiago Silva, but it's unknown whether he'll be willing to do that this time around or be lured into the temptation to stand and trade with Jackson.
Hearing Evans talk, however, it doesn't appear that the personal feelings involved in this fight will stop him from putting it on the floor.
"He knows I'm a wrestler and he knows I'm going to try and take him down," Evans said. "It's at what going am I going to do it? How are my transitions going to be and how confused am I going to be able to make him? That's what the game plan is — how confused can I make him?"
Last Time Out:
Jackson: Unanimous decision win over Keith Jardine at UFC 96.
Evans: Unanimous decision win over Thiago Silva at UFC 108.
The Lines: Jackson, minus-125; Evans, minus-105
Jackson: On if he got the Snuggie that Evans mailed him. "The day the Snuggie came was a real bad for me, because I was training so hard and I was so focused. I hate training. I'm not going to lie, it's no secret. Sometimes I just be in a real bad mood. My people around me know me real well, we're like a family. They knew I didn't need to see no Snuggie that day."
Evans: On the anticipation of finally fighting Jackson. "With this fight, there may be a little more anticipation. I've never wanted to put my hands on a man so bad in my life."
Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or [email protected].