For a couple of guys who are about to fight inside a cage, Quinton Jackson and Jon Jones have been spending a lot of time together in the weeks prior to UFC 135.
If reports out of Denver on Friday suggest that the animosity between Jones and Jackson seems to be growing as their bout for the UFC light heavyweight title draws nearer, that perhaps it has even eclipsed the hostility each has expressed for mutual nemesis Rashad Evans in the past, maybe all this time together has something to do with it.
“I don’t like being around him at all,” Jackson told MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani this week, about sharing the same space with Jones as they made the rounds to promote their fight. “You just feel the energy of people, you feel the fakeness coming off him. He tries to say little sly things on the side here and there. He tries to make me out like I’m the bad guy, like I’m the one picking on him. [It’s] the same thing Rashad basically did [before UFC 114] ... but honestly, Jon Jones is making me like Rashad more than him.”
Jones confirmed the feeling was mutual, but -- in typical fashion for the young champion -- gave the impression he’s been able to find something useful out of doing joint appearances and interviews and even sharing the same couch with Jackson on an episode of "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" this week.
“I’m actually liking it, I’m liking it a lot,” Jones told Helwani. “Rampage’s personality is a very unique personality and if you’re not familiar with it ... it can take a lot of people aback. Rampage has that in-your-face [attitude] like, ‘Oh, I’m going to knock you out, kid’ and the Mr. T talk. The more I’m around it, the more I’ve humanized him [and] the more I’ve realized that he’s just some heavy-handed Mr. T wannabe.”
Like I said, useful, if not exactly complimentary.
Certainly, this can’t be easy for either guy. A professional mixed martial artist typically spends the weeks leading up to a big bout secluded inside an anonymous gym, surrounded only by a close-knit group of training partners. This is the part most say is a drag, but there’s probably also something necessary about the isolation and solitude of training. During this time, fighters usually see the guy they’re about to fight only on film, and to the extent most will even cop to being the slightest bit concerned about him, it’s with an arms-length kind of contempt.
Nobody wants to spend much time around his opponent, let alone be confronted by daily reminders of him as an actual, living human being. So long as you are able to stay cocooned in the fog of camp, the guy probably isn’t even real to you until you show up on fight week and, boom, there he is, breathing and walking around and, maybe, mean mugging you.
Jones and Jackson haven’t had that luxury of that separation and, at this point, the prefight theatrics have probably worn off for both guys. It appears that with familiarity has come a true dislike, as Jackson reportedly said he didn’t even want to be in the same room as a “fake-ass kid” like Jones during their Friday morning "SportsCenter" interviews.
Only a bit more than 24 hours left, guys. Then you never have to see each other again. Well, until the next time.