UFCer: “Not that it has anything to do with race”

Adam Hill of the LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL this week reports on why a promising UFC fighter may soon turn down a life-changing title fight.

Jon Jones

(Jones is one of UFC’s hottest prospects)

Hill reports that Jon Jones is on the “short list” of UFCers who may get a light heavyweight title shot against the winner of a future fight between Rashad Evans and current champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua.

But Hill reports that “there is a real possibility that Jones would turn down the opportunity” if the opponent was Evans.

Why? Let’s let Jones explain:

“Not that it has anything to do with race, but we’re both African-American guys and we’re fighters. We’ve got a lot of similarities between family and all this other type of stuff. Rashad’s a unique character to me. 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. To me, being able to call Rashad when we’re 40 years old and say, ‘Let’s go fishing,’ or something like that, that’s more important than the paycheck we would get today. I train with the guy. We’ve had conversations about personal things.”

Hill also noted that, “Jones said he promised Greg Jackson when he joined his camp in Albuquerque, N.M., not to use the skills he learned there against the other members of the team. Jones indicated the pledge extended to other members of the camp as well but said specifically he would not fight Evans.

Jones doesn’t have to justify not wanting to fight Evans to anyone. If he had just said he didn’t want to fight Evans for personal reasons, I don’t think anyone would be upset except, of course, UFC President Dana White.

But even had Jones not revealed why he wouldn’t take the fight against Evans, the possibility that it was because both are black never entered my mind until Jones said, “not that it has anything to do with race, but we’re both African-American guys and we’re fighters.”

In fairness to Jones, while most boxing greats you can name are black, that isn’t the case in UFC. Perhaps the attitude about race amongst black MMAers is different than it is in other areas of the fight game.

By providing such a qualifier for his passing on a fight with Evans, Jones may actually think so. Obviously it wasn’t a grand idea for Jones to bring up race at all in the context of why he wouldn’t fight Evans - since many people will assume the opposite of what he said. (Like me.)

While he didn’t address race in his response during a recent appearance on the Jim Rome Show, UFC President Dana White did talk about the practice of UFC stable mates - like Jones and Evans - playing the “friend” card in passing on potential title shots.

“The bottom line, and the way it’s been in the UFC, is that it’s a camp thing. You’ll find a couple of camps that are saying, ‘Oh, no. This guy is my friend. I’m not fighting him.’ What? This isn’t personal. This isn’t, ‘Oh, I hate him. I’m going to fight him.’ You train, and you work hard to be the best mixed martial artist you can be, and you’re going to compete against other mixed martial artists to prove you’re the best.

“I personally think that when one guy [refuses to fight a teammate], that means he’s saying, ‘I train with this guy, and this guy is probably going to kick my ass. I’m not confident enough to fight this guy.’”

While this may seem like an isolated situation, Yahoo Sports UFC writer Steve Cofield indicated, “this is a mounting issue for UFC matchmakers.

One wonders though if this really is a case of a racial bond or friendship getting in the way of taking a fight, or more a negotiating tactic to drive up the price of a UFC fighter’s services.