The lengthy feud between former-UFC light heavyweight champions Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and Rashad Evans is truly in a league of its own. The history of the UFC has seen plenty of back-and-forth battles even before two fighters step into the cage. In fact, it's a rather common occurrence. But the battle between Jackson and Evans is different.
The bad blood between the two top-tier 205-pounders began the last time anyone saw Jackson fight inside the Octagon. At UFC 96, the former Pride superstar defeated Keith Jardine via unanimous decision, which triggered Evans, the UFC light heavyweight champion at the time, to come into the cage to defend his training partner and his belt. The two met in the center with stone-cold gazes, each promising the demise of the man standing opposite him when they'd finally meet.
The staredown was enough for UFC president Dana White to plan for the two to meet in the cage and settle their differences with Evans' title on the line. However, ligament damage to the jaw of Jackson forced him to the sidelines, making him unable to prepare for a championship fight. The injury granted Lyoto Machida the opportunity at Evans' belt, and the Brazilian quickly dismantled the champion, stealing away the coveted gold.
The loss pushed Evans backwards in the division, but the opportunity to coach against Rampage on the 10th season of "The Ultimate Fighter" meant he'd finally be able to battle his nemesis for a chance at the title.
During the filming of the reality series, Jackson and Evans' animosity towards one another grew in front of the eyes of millions watching around the nation. The hatred seemed genuine and was set to culminate in a showdown in Rampage's hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, on December 12. However, Rampage opted for the silver screen with a role in the remake of the A-Team and even retired from the sport in an official blog which bashed the UFC for the lack of appreciation he felt he was shown.
However, now that Jackson's role in the movie industry's done for the moment and he's elected to return to his true passion of fighting, Evans vs. Rampage has gained new life, as the two are set to meet at UFC 114 on May 29, just 15 months since the feud first began.
The long-overdue matchup is set to headline this Saturday's main card and is one of the most anticipated grudge matches in UFC history. The reasoning behind this comes from several things, spanning from the hatred between the two and the many roadblocks that have prevented this fight from happening.
Unlike matches between Dan Hardy and Marcus Davis, in which emotions ran high, this matchup's escalated beyond the common bad blood rivalry. Since Jackson's defeat of Jardine in March 2009, the two light heavyweights have hopped on a 14-month hype train, never ceasing to give fans reason enough to purchase the pay-per-view.
Sure, fans have seen it all before; the trash-talk, the threats, the hype. However, just like many fighters who participated under Jackson and Evans on "The Ultimate Fighter" will attest, along with the millions who've seen the verbal degradation between the two, the rivals seem to honestly hate and hold severe ill-intentions towards the well-being of one another when Saturday night rolls around. Many fighters will admit to disliking their opponents, but few actually put forth the effort to constantly assure fans they want nothing more than to damage someone unlike they've ever done before.
When some rivals finally meet in the cage, the two walk away with the same or even greater animosity held towards their opponents (i.e. Daley's post-fight sucker punch against Koscheck at UFC 113). But in the majority of cases, rivalries finally come to a close with the two fighters often willing to put the hatred in the past, hugging and congratulating one another after the bell, or even having the will to move on from the pre-fight hype and negative comments.
Rest assured, Evans vs. Jackson will not end that way. The hatred will come to a head Saturday night in the evening's main event, with the winner basking in the demise of his opponent. But this fight isn't just about winning in the hearts and minds of Jackson and Evans. No, this fight is personal. It's not your standard every day grudge match. The malice between these two has led to a new breed of rivalry, one that'll go down in history as one of the greatest in the history of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.