This is absolutely new territory for Rashad Evans.
The former light heavyweight champion didn’t know what it was like to lose two straight fights until he left the cage after meeting Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in February. And it hasn’t been something he’s been enjoying.
Evans (17-3-1 MMA, 12-3-1 UFC) headlines UFC 161 later this month against fellow legend Dan Henderson (29-9 MMA, 6-3 UFC), and he’ll be trying to snap that two-fight skid in a major way.
“I’m real excited,” Evans told MMAjunkie.com Radio (www.mmajunkie.com/radio). “It’s a good chance for me to jump back on the scene and let everybody know I’ve stumbled a bit, but I’m definitely not out. I’ve lost twice in a row in wrestling, but it’s been a while since it’s happened to me – and it doesn’t feel good at all.”
Losing back-to-back fights in his collegiate wrestling days is a lot different than losing two in a row at his level in the UFC, though. At UFC 145 a little more than a year ago, he lost a unanimous decision to former friend and teammate Jon Jones, trying to reclaim the 205-pound title he once held.
Then came the loss to Nogueira at UFC 156 – a fight that Evans said he just wasn’t in the right frame of mind to turn the afterburners on.
“In my last fight, especially, I’ve never felt so calm and relaxed, and I just could not find that switch to be like, ‘All right – I’m about to tear this dude.’ I couldn’t find that switch,” Evans said. “I couldn’t find it. That’s one of the things I had to go back and look at to see what happened. Why wasn’t I able to find that when I wanted to? I’ve got a lot of issues that allow me to always tap into that feeling of rage, and I wasn’t able to tap into anything.
“If you’re in shape and know how to fight, you have to put it together on fight night. But I didn’t put it together and I didn’t have the right mindset to go in there and compete. You’ve just got to be ready to fight. Throw technique and all that aside – it’s a fight. When you forget to make it a fight, you’re already losing a big advantage.”
So against Henderson, he’ll be hoping to find that switch to avoid three straight losses, which would be practically unthinkable given his resume.
He’s been preparing for a straight-ahead fighter, which he said differs from training for someone like Jones.
“Dan Henderson is a bread-and-butter type of guy, straight up,” Evans said. “(There’s) nothing fancy about him at all. That doesn’t make him less threatening, but it doesn’t make him the most difficult opponent to plan for as opposed to Jon Jones. That basic stuff is the exact thing that gets people in trouble. And that’s what’s kept him at the top of the sport for as long as it has. When it comes to throwing perfect technique, there’s no one in the game at that level who has it (like him). He’s surgical with that right hand. He’s not the fastest, he’s not the strongest, he’s not the biggest – but he’s super accurate and he’s effective with his technique.
But Evans right now actually is thankful for one thing. For basically four years, he really was only involved in fights that were going to get him a title shot, or title fights themselves – he beat Forrest Griffin for the belt at UFC 92 before losing it to Lyoto Machida at UFC 98 and eventually getting back to challenge for it again against Jones.
For a change, Evans said it’s nice to be able to just train for a fight without thinking about all the what’s-at-stake stuff – even though the reality is, the loser between he and Henderson may never get back into contention again.
“I feel like a big to-do was made about ‘title shot, title shot, title shot,’” Evans said. “Honestly, I just want to go out there and fight and love fighting. When you fight from that place, it brings me back to when I first started fighting. I would go and fight in these tournaments and get paid $500 to fight three guys, and I didn’t care. It was all because I liked to fight and it was fun. When you start to make it all about a title and all that stuff, it gets to the point where you feel like if you’re not fighting for a belt or a chance to fight for the belt, it’s not really worth it.
“But you know what? It’s time to make fighting just about fighting. If you go out there and fight hard enough and put enough work in, you’re going to get a title shot. So I’m just going to let it take care of itself. I’m 33 years old, I’m still young in the sport, and I’m just going to do me and have fun in the sport. I’m not tired of fighting – I want to fight.”
For the latest on UFC 161, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.
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