ATLANTA -- Just over a year ago, Rashad Evans and Jon Jones were friends.
The upstate New York natives bonded and trained together at an elite mixed martial arts camp in Albuquerque, N.M. Nobody figured Jones and Evans would ever break the sport's unwritten rule against fighting a teammate.
How these two light heavyweights ended up in the octagon at UFC 145 in Philips Arena in Atlanta tonight combines a little Greek tragedy, the dueling viewpoints of "Rashomon," and a good dose of "Warrior," last year's MMA film about brothers who fight for a title.
"I know how he really feels," said Evans of Niagara Falls. "Jon always wanted to fight me. Jon never wanted to be teammates, or to be like brothers. Jon came on the team to learn the way to beat me, so he can fight me."
Jones, a Rochester native, weighed in at 205 pounds, while Evans tipped the scales at 204 during Friday's weigh-in.
The UFC just hopes it makes for thrilling television when Jones defends his title against the division's former champion in the most anticipated pay-per-view bout of the spring.
"He thinks he knows everything I bring to the table, but a lot has changed since he left the gym a year ago," Jones said. "I'm a much different fighter than the one he trained with. I hope he is ready to see and feel that difference."
Jones and Evans have maintained a nonstop barrage of trash talk for months, with Evans questioning Jones' character while Jones bemoans Evans' immaturity. While Evans has been painted as a villain, Jones has added some intrigue to his good-guy image, which he has used to become a UFC poster boy and high-profile corporate pitchman.
Both claim the saga isn't promotional posturing: They've genuinely grown to dislike each other.
"I really want to beat Jon, but I also want to be champion again," Evans said. "It's really hard to say for me, which one I want more. It's kind of like a toss-up."