Rashad Evans shrugs off retirement talk prior to UFC 161 fight with Henderson


Retirement isn’t imminent for ex-UFC champion Rashad Evans, nor was it prior to his UFC 156 fight against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.

“I think I may have brought retirement up,” Evans told MMAjunkie.com Radio (www.mmajunkie.com/radio) about the origins of his retirement talk, which emerged prior to the Nogueira fight. “Not like I was going to retire. Maybe something in the future. But it got taken to the next level.”

Evans notices that MMA fans have a tendency to do that, particularly when a fighter is coming off a loss. He can see it because that’s the position he’s currently in, having lost his past two bouts following a four-fight win streak. But he can also see it in other fighters because he’s now a FUEL TV commentator tasked with keeping tabs on the UFC.

“I lose a couple fights, and they’re like, ‘You should retire!’ Fight fans, they get nuts,” he said. “If you go out there and don’t look sharp, they want you to retire right away.”

But that’s not going to happen any time soon, and certainly not before Evans (17-3-1 MMA, 12-3-1 UFC) meets Dan Henderson (29-9 MMA, 6-3 UFC) at UFC 161, which takes place June 15 at MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. The fight is part of the pay-per-view main card.

Evans, 33, won the title at UFC 92 but couldn’t hold onto it after Lyoto Machida knocked him out at UFC 98. His subsequent streak won him another chance to capture it from champ and rival Jon Jones, who stepped into Evans’ place when a knee injury robbed him of a shot against now-ex champ Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. But Jones dominated him en route to a decision win.

Evans has been a magnet for critics since he showboated on “The Ultimate Fighter 2,” but retirement wasn’t a topic until this year.

“It’s one of those things that make you come back hungrier and stronger,” Evans said of his critics. “There’s a lot of things that needed to settle in my life. I feel like I’ve settled a lot of things, and I’ll compete the way I know I can compete, and that’s just worry-free. My next fight is going to be a really good fight.”

Henderson, too, is no stranger to the subject of retirement. The 42-year-old previously has said he’s got another two or three years before he calls it quits, but that doesn’t stop observers from asking for a timeline over and over again.

Evans should know this, too, because he’s a fan of Henderson’s from his early career. The two share a collegiate wrestling background, though Henderson’s wrestling credentials far exceed those of Evans.

Still, Henderson lacks an honor that Evans has won: an undisputed UFC title. And because he lost out on a title shot when he was forced out of a fight with champ Jon Jones at UFC 151 due to a knee injury, and then lost a title eliminator to Lyoto Machida at UFC 157, Henderson will be looking to right that wrong.

“Henderson’s got those bombs,” Evans said. “He’s one of my favorite fighters, so it’s going to be fun to fight him.”

Evans still has plenty of time to earn as one of the top draws in the UFC, and he plans to capitalize why he can. He’s a long ways from getting paid $3,000 to fight twice in one night, as he was in his first outings. There are monetary rewards to be had, but also those brought from rediscovering lost passion.

That might be a stronger force in the end.

“This is really a game that you never really master,” he said. “There’s always a little thing that you can do better. There’s always something to learn. You stop learning, and you’re finished.”

For the latest on UFC 161, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.

MMAjunkie.com Radio broadcasts Monday-Friday at noon ET (9 a.m. PT) live from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino’s Race & Sports Book. The show is hosted by “Gorgeous” George Garcia, MMAjunkie.com lead staff reporter John Morgan and producer Brian “Goze” Garcia. For more information or to download past episodes, go to www.mmajunkie.com/radio.

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