Then came Friday's weigh-ins at the Fox Theatre, where the two estranged friends and former training partners stepped on the scale -- then came together for an intense staredown worthy of one of the biggest grudge matches in the promotion's 19-year history.
With the 4,678-seat erstwhile movie palace nearly filled to capacity, Evans (204 pounds) and Jones (205) both came in under the division limit. Both fighters drew mixed reactions from a crowd that seemed evenly divided in their support.
“It’s been a bit different because of the media and everything, but at the same time, I enjoyed the process,” Evans told UFC commentator Joe Rogan. “It is a lot of emotion involved, but at the same time, I’m looking forward to stepping in the cage and fighting Jones.”
“It’s a gigantic fight. I’m excited to be here, baby,” Jones said, amid an uncommon chorus of boos. “I’m ready to tear some heart out.”
Every fighter made weight Friday except for John Makdessi, who came in three pounds over the lightweight limit of 155 pounds and will forfeit 20 percent of his purse to opponent Anthony Njokuani.
Yesterday, Evans had observed how a fight actually starts at the weigh-ins. "It’s really the last time you see your guy before you see him in the cage," he said. "You get to see his energy, feel his energy."
If the hostility exuding from both fighters Friday is any indication, their light heavyweight title showdown Saturday at Philips Arena should be a cracker.
(Watch the entire weigh-ins here.)
-- Bryan Armen Graham