ANAHEIM, Calif. – One week ago, UFC light heavyweight contender Jon Jones (11-1 MMA, 5-1 UFC) confirmed with a London crowd that his claim he will never fight friend and teammate Rashad Evans will stand regardless of whether a title is at stake.
In the seven days since, "Bones" says he has received an overwhelmingly negative backlash regarding his position.
Today, Jones said his stance remains unchanged despite the criticism and that his commitment to the true spirit of martial arts dictates that he stand true in his beliefs.
"You should have seen what I got in my inbox in Twitter," Jones told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) regarding reaction to his UFC Fan Expo London 2010 Q&A session. "They did not like that. It happens.
"To me, being able to call Rashad when we're 40 years old and say, 'Let's go fishing,' that's more important than a paycheck that we would get today. I train with the guy. We've had conversations about personal things."
Jones said he and Evans have formed a unique bond in their time as teammates under the Greg Jackson's MMA banner, and the idea of engaging in hand-to-hand combat with a true friend is far from appealing.
"Rashad's a unique character to me," Jones said. "There's not many guys that I can relate to like Rashad, and preparing to do physical damage to him just doesn't add up to me.
"Fighting Rashad is the last thing I'd ever want to do."
And while Jones says the relationship with Evans is unique, that doesn't necessarily mean he's open to fighting other members of the Greg Jackson's MMA team. In fact, Jones says, it would go against the promise he made to Jackson when he was invited to join the squad – a move that has paid decided dividends in the light heavyweight's recent bouts.
"Rashad is a very special case, but before I joined Greg Jackson's team, he called Rashad, he called Keith Jardine, and he said, 'Is it OK with you guys if Jon joins our family?'" Jones explained. "He got back to me about three days later and said, 'Welcome to our team.' Being a part of the team, I had to vow to Greg that I would never use the tactics and everything I've gained with Greg Jackson against our own. It just doesn't make sense. It's like biting the hand that's fed you.
"Since I've been a part of Greg Jackson's camp, I've had first-round fights, my nutrition is better, my level of training in jiu-jitsu and striking is better. Everything is better about me. To slap him in the face after he's done so much for me by competing against one of our own, it's bigger than satisfying people."
With Jones set in his beliefs, some MMA observers have suggested that if Evans regains the title in his 2011 bout with current champ Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, the 6-foot-4 "Bones" might make a move to the heavyweight division.
Still just 23 years old, Jones said heavyweight may indeed be in his future, but he's not rushing the move.
"I'm really young, and I do feel like I'm starting to grow slowly, but the heavyweight division is so stacked right now that I wouldn't consider that until like 25 or 26 (years old) and I've really grown into an adult-level strength," Jones said. "I've got some time.
"I'm 23, and right now my dreams are in the light heavyweight division. No one holds the belt for too long in the light heavyweight division. Our promoters are smart. They know what they're doing."
So while UFC president Dana White has consistently expressed his displeasure regarding teammates who refuse to fight, Jones believes it's an unnecessary task. Besides, with just six octagon appearances under his belt, Jones knows he's just getting started.
"In some ways, I feel as if I'm already a champion by the way I treat people and the things I'm trying to do for the sport," Jones said. "My goal is to be considered the No. 1 fighter in the world, ... (but) I'm willing to wait patiently.
"In some ways, who even knows if I'm mature enough to be the champion of the world at 23? I'm gaining so many life experiences [right now]. I'm just growing so rapidly, and when the time is right for me, it will be right for me. I'm not rushing anything."