Commentary

Blood boils between Jackson, Evans

Updated: May 27, 2010, 2:49 PM ET
By Franklin McNeil | For ESPN.com

For more than a year, former UFC light heavyweight champions Quinton Jackson and Rashad Evans have waged a heated war of words.

On average, Jackson has come up with the most memorable one-liners. His quick wit and comedic antics often leave many mixed martial arts fans in stitches.

But the UFC 114 battle between "Rampage" and Evans is no laughing matter. The fight takes place Saturday (10 p.m. ET, pay-per-view) at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, and it's serious business.

Quinton Jackson and Rashad Evans
Josh Hedges/Zuffa/UFCQuinton Jackson, left, and Rashad Evans don't see eye to eye on a lot of things.

These two don't like each other one bit. And for those who think Jackson and Evans are simply trying to hype the fight, think again.

This fight is personal. Each man will enter cage with a grudge to settle. Their feelings toward one another are raw.

Jackson believes Evans has been very disrespectful of him since the two appeared as coaches on "The Ultimate Fighter" series. They were scheduled to fight Dec. 12 in Memphis, Tenn., but Jackson opted out to star as B.A. Baracus in the "A-Team" movie.

While the fight had to be put on hold, Jackson's strong dislike for Evans never wavered.

"I'm fighting this guy because I want to teach guys like him a lesson -- to keep his mouth shut when you ain't on the same level as the next man," Jackson told ESPN.com during a recent conference call. "That's the motivation for this fight.

"It would be a moral victory for me."

Jackson (30-7-0) doesn't want to beat Evans; he wants to punish him. The feeling, however, is mutual.

The mention of Jackson's name makes Evans' blood boil. Never has he felt such deep-seated dislike for an opponent. Evans (14-1-1) revealed the source of his disdain recently.

"He's always acting like a fool," Evans told ESPN.com. "Quinton is always perpetuating negative stereotypes of black men.

"Why would he get on the conference call and ask you why you're always using big words with him? Like he doesn't understand what you're saying because he's black. That ... makes me mad.

"That's why I called him a Sambo. Quinton is a smart dude, so why continue to perpetuate negative stereotypes of black people? I know it hurt his feelings; that's why he didn't say much [on the conference call] after that."

One would be hard-pressed to find an African-American male whose feelings aren't hurt after being called a Sambo by another African-American. It is possibly the harshest word one African-American male can call another.

Sambo's origins come from the book "Little Black Sambo" by Helen Bannerman. The book was first published in 1899.

While some question whether African-Americans are the subject of Bannerman's book, there's no debating the target of her book's illustrations. The exaggerated caricatures Bannerman used were patterned after derogatory images of African-Americans in the 1800s.

Labeling Jackson a Sambo is equivalent to calling him an Uncle Tom. Evans, however, isn't the only African-American mixed martial artist who shares this view of Jackson.

[+] EnlargeMuhammed Lawal
AP Photo/Jeff ChiuMuhammed Lawal feels Quinton Jackson purposely plays into stereotypes.

"He plays into the ignorant stereotypes some black males tend to get labeled with," Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Muhammed Lawal told ESPN.com. "He's trying not to seem threatening.

"He has problems with black men, especially black athletes. He had problems with [San Diego Chargers linebacker] Shawne Merriman, me, Rashad and [MMA lightweight] Antonio McKee; he [also] had a problem with another black football player in San Diego recently."

While Jackson's behavior has taken center stage in recent days, he refuses to allow name-calling to take his mind off the task at hand -- defeating Evans. He's trained hard and believes his time away from fighting will prove advantageous Saturday night.

Despite the harsh words being tossed his way, Jackson is at ease with himself. He won't stop with the wisecracks; it's just his way of having fun.

"Taking time off proved to be good for my body," Jackson said. "It's no secret that I sustained a lot of injuries … and my body was kind of worn out from that.

"And all of this talking and all of this running around trying to pull up that black [comic stuff] because I'm black and don't know what big words are … hey, that's my sense of humor!

"I have a sense of humor, don't hate on me."

Neither Jackson nor Evans will have a sense of humor at UFC 114. Dislike for the opponent was a motivational factor leading into this bout, but on fight night winning is the only goal.

There's more on the line than settling personal grudges. The victor earns a shot at light heavyweight titleholder Mauricio Rua.

Evans wants a chance to reclaim the title but will concern himself with that matter at another time. The only fighter presently on his mind is Jackson.

"I have a 205-pound reason not to look past this fight," Evans said. "Quinton is coming in and he's going to try to knock my head off. He's the only fighter I am worried about right now.

"I don't care if I win another fight in this sport, I've got to whip him. That's where my mindset is right now."

Franklin McNeil is a contributing mixed martial arts/boxing writer for ESPN.com. He also appears regularly on "MMA Live," which now airs on ESPN2.