—Kenny Rice

It comes down to the basics, money and opportunity. Doesn’t it almost always? Especially for an MMA fighter wanting to move up to a title shot. Eventually because of the aforementioned two things, those training partners in gyms now will have to be opponents someday in the Octagon.

This reinforces the tremendous gap between boxing and MMA elite. Manny Pacquiao can have his private camps; have training legend Freddie Roach at his disposal; bring in a slew of sparring partners; the befitting boxing royalty entourage, all because he will make more in one fight than the combined top ten elite fighters in MMA will make in a year.

With the growing empire of the UFC now including the WEC and Strikeforce, the options to make a respectable living has gotten even more limited. An MMA fighter can’t be concerned about exclusivity in training, he simply has to train wherever best fits him with others fighters, maybe one he will have to meet for a title or a shot at getting one.

Rashad Evans didn’t like that one of the best gyms in the sport, Jackson’s, brought in Jon Jones as he trained to become the newest UFC champ. He bolted for if not greener pastures, at least a place where he won’t have to see Jones until they meet for real, where he can be the center of attention worthy of his status.

This week on Inside MMA, Greg Jackson said of the decision, ” I love Rashad, we’re blessed to be friends, it was an unfortunate situation.

“There’s a new dynamic force in all the best gyms, everyone wants a title shot, the merger has changed the structure of how many there are available. With that it is more likely that training partners will be meeting each other for career making fights.”

A misnomer is in the “friends versus friends” debate. Some of sports greatest team dynasties, the A’s, Yankees, Raiders, were based on their performance on the field not their contentious locker room. Everyone training together, like most all of us who work together, doesn’t automatically assure a tie that binds. Camaraderie can’t fill the bank account.

“Not everyone is a friend. It does created a bond training together. As long as you’re getting paid all you can really look at is having a training partner that matches up well for you in preparing for a fight,” says UFC lightweight contender Jim Miller. He laughed at the possibility of fighting brother Dan someday. “Dan and I push each other really hard, we’ve already had some good fights.”

Mike Kyle who fights Gegard Mousasi at Strikeforce next month had to face friend Justin Eilers in UFC 49, he lost via first round knock out. “He is a friend, a big brother. But that first hit, you let loose from the get-go.”

There is a real concern about training or fighting with a friend, that let loose factor. “It’s hard to throw elbows right off. You do feel reserved to a point, and in training you have to push.” Kyle noting his friend and training partner now, UFC champ Cain Valasquez. “Cain doesn’t have a problem bouncing me around. We have some intense workouts.”

Jackson understands that MMA will never be like boxing in the way fighters train for a major bout, and he feels it a positive. “There’s a way to go about it (training). Look at boxing the guys who live in giant mansions who now have no funds and there are many stories like that in boxing, no friends after it’s over.

“You have to put in place what your fighter needs, physical and mental. There is a real danger in a guy holding back because of friendship, but it’s what we have in this sport, camps are the way to prepare.”

What the sport now has is a more limited scope that broadens the need to stay in a camp of fighters, if there was any kind of freedom for the individual at all, it is reduced. There are no choices as to whom to fight or when. Camp mates will meet more often. It’s opportunity and money.

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