Jon "Bones" Jones, the 24-year-old UFC Light Heavyweight Champion who happens to be Christian, may lose to former training partner turned rival Rashad Evans in Saturday's UFC 145 in Atlanta, according to the 32-year-old MMA fighter who has criticized his opponent's faith.
Evans was once friends with Jones before the pair engaged in a verbal altercation at a Las Vegas nightclub last year, when the competitive nature of the athletes turned into a promise to beat one another. Since then, the two former training partners stopped being friends and have geared up for a big win in the UFC 145 fight.
However, Evans insinuated that Jones' downfall may be his Christian faith.
"Fighting-wise, Jon Jones has staying power, but you know as well as I know it's not always about the actual performance. What took Tiger Woods out was not about golfing," Evans said in a Fox Sports report. "It's the other things that make (athletes) who they are that you really don't see. And once those things are altered it changes how they perform."
For Evans, these intangible issues may be Jones' perception of himself based on his Christian faith.
"I think Jon is going to be a great people's champion when he starts acting like a real person and stops acting like he's morally better than somebody else, or he's on a higher plane, or he's figured out something that the rest of us haven't," Evans said in the Fox report. "I think that Jon thinks that he owns the spotlight."
However, Jones has not shied away from being vocal about his faith. As the youngest champion in UFC history, Jones feels his family is blessed since his younger brother is gearing up for the NFL draft and older brother currently plays for the Baltimore Ravens.
"I'm getting ready one of the biggest fights in my life, my brother is getting ready to be drafted into the NFL," Jones said in a Fox Sports report. "We're all going to be extremely happy men, and I really think God is watching over our family and He's blessing us."
Still, Jones said he doesn't feel his Christianity gives him any physical advantage over his opponent and former friend.
The UFC fighter has the Bible verse Philippians 4:13 tattooed across his chest, which reads: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
Jones has no problem talking about how his faith in Jesus Christ impacts his life.
"God doesn't like me any more than he likes Rashad Evans. But what my Christianity does do for me (is) it helps me make better life decisions," he said. "It helps me not get sucked into what fame and money would do to most 24-year-olds. And ultimately that leads to success."
However, Jones made no apologies about being confident that he will earn the win over his opponent.
"And a big thing is, I never really offend my opponent. I'm not putting anyone else down," Jones said in a UFC.com report. "I'm saying that I believe that I'm gonna win in there, I believe that maybe he had a better wrestling career than me, but that I'm gonna work hard and train hard on my defense and not even be taken down. It's all positive reinforcement and reassurance, it forces you to fulfill your own prophecy through hard work and training, and that's a powerful, powerful thing."