Both former UFC light heavyweight champions, Jackson and Evans had previously been scheduled to face off at UFC 107 on Dec. 12 in Memphis, Tenn., to culminate their turns as bickering rival coaches on Spike TV’s “the Ultimate Fighter 10.”
However, Jackson bowed out of the matchup to take a lead role as “B.A. Baracus” in the major motion picture “The A-Team,” which will get a wide release in theatres on June 11.
Jackson’s decision caused a public rift between the fighter and UFC President Dana White, who chided the 31-year-old Jackson for his choice. Jackson has since agreed to return to the Octagon to fulfill his contract with the promotion, but has intonated he won’t re-sign with the organization afterward.
Jackson, who earned the UFC title with a first-round knockout over Chuck Liddell at UFC 71 in May 2007, fought only once in 2009, grinding out a unanimous decision against Greg Jackson student Keith Jardine at UFC 96 last March in Columbus, Ohio. A former Pride Fighting Championships star in Japan, Jackson amassed an impressive ledger abroad with victories over Ricardo Arona, Murilo “Ninja” Rua, Liddell, and former UFC middleweight champion Murilo Bustamante.
“I really want to knock this guy out,” Jackson said in a UFC press release. “I’ve never, ever wanted to knock someone as cold as I want to knock Rashad Evans out. He’s disrespected me so much, for so long. I am so motivated to train my ass off. I’ve moved my coaches into my house already -- Rashad should be prepared to see a brand new Rampage in May. I saw him in Sydney a few weeks back and we picked up right where we left off. I can’t stand him. He’s a disrespectful person and I didn't even want to beat Wanderlei as much as I want to beat this guy.”
The heavyweight winner of “The Ultimate Fighter 2” in November 2005, former Michigan State wrestler Evans rose to the top of the 205-pound heap with a third-round TKO over former champion Forrest Griffin at UFC 92 in December 2008. Reigning champion Lyoto Machida wrested the title from Evans with a second-round knockout at UFC 98 in May 2009. With Jackson’s withdrawal from their planned bout last September, the 30-year-old Evans, who also trains with Greg Jackson’s MMA Academy in Albuquerque, N.M., opted to face Brazilian striker Thiago Silva at UFC 108 in January. Evans kept his hopes for a bout with Jackson alive with a unanimous decision victory.
“I don’t like all the pre-fight talking, so I can’t wait until I finally get my chance to shut him up,” said Evans of Jackson in the release. “There were a lot of times on the show when I wanted to hit him right there. When Keith [Jardine] was training for his fight with Rampage, I had to mimic Rampage’s style. I can probably beat Rampage as Rampage now. Plus, he’s gotten fat. He needs to get in shape just to get in shape. I may come to the Octagon with Mr. T just to get in his head.”