411 MMA Interviews: Rashad Evans
In tonight’s co-main event bout, former UFC light heavyweight champion, Rashad Evans (17-2-1, MMA; 12-2-1, UFC), faces longtime battle-tested veteran Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (20-5, MMA; 3-2, UFC) at the epic Super Bowl weekend UFC 156 event. Evans returns after a nine month layoff where in his last fight he failed in his bid to recapture the light heavyweight title from current reigning champion, Jon Jones. Recently, there has been talk of Evans as a potential opponent for middleweight and pound for pound king Anderson Silva. However, this depends on a successful performance for Evans on Saturday.
I caught up with Evans on Thursday when fighters were still in the process of preparing to make weight on Friday.
Jeffrey Harris: How excited are you to be fighting on this huge card for Super Bowl weekend?
Rashad Evans: I’m really excited to be fighting on this card. As a fighter you hope to be on these cards. It’s like the equivalent – for us — of like being in the Super Bowl or any big show because throughout the year there are so many UFC cards there’s not a lot of big cards like this. You have the New Year’s Eve cards and stuff like that, but this is one of those cards that stands out and you want to be a part of as a fighter.
Jeffrey Harris: How is your weight cut going right now and how are you feeling?
Rashad Evans: My weight cut is going pretty good. My weight is down pretty good. There’s not going to be too much of an issue. I feel pretty light, and I got a lot of energy so I feel pretty good. The atmosphere in Vegas has been pretty electric right now and everyone is revving up for the weekend. So I’m feeling amazing.
Jeffrey Harris: For the fight with Rogerio Nogueira, in the past Nogueira has had a lot of trouble dealing with wrestlers in the UFC. And you have very good wrestling for MMA. Is that something you are aware of and something you want to exploit on Saturday?
Rashad Evans: It’s something that I’m aware of, that I’ve been focusing on, and that I’m definitely going to exploit. It’s no secret to him or anybody else to think about the match-up. Wrestling is my bread and butter, and that’s where I’m going to take the fight.
Jeffrey Harris: Nogueira is Minotauro’s brother and he does have a very good BJJ game. But I think people forget that you have a decent BJJ game yourself in that you have been able to deal with fighters who are good off their back and good with their BJJ. Do people forget that you are a BJJ black belt under Rolles Gracie?
Rashad Evans: Yeah people forget. They don’t really recognize – they don’t really care to recognize that; just kind of overlook that. But I’m glad that they do because I don’t want that to be the focus. I don’t want them to realize that I have that trick in the bag. It’s just usually something that people realize a little bit too late. And there’s nothing like the shock of getting into the fight and your opponent realizing you have a tool that they didn’t see.
Jeffrey Harris: It’s been nine months with Jon Jones where you failed to take home the UFC light heavyweight title. Coming off that fight, did you have to do some soul searching considering how much of an emotional feud considering all the past occurrences with Jon Jones?
Rashad Evans: Yeah I did a lit bit of soul searching from a career standpoint and a personal standpoint in my life. And because whenever you have to give so much of yourself to an event and talk about the whole situation that happened at Jackson’s and talking about it to the point ad nauseum, you get kind of drained and burned out for it. And the disappointment of fighting for the belt and not getting it – that’s something that plays a big part in me feeling a little bit down for a while. But it was a journey that I needed to take. I felt like I needed to confront the feeling of wanting to compete; [and] why I was even competing in the first place. So everything just lined up perfectly.
Jeffrey Harris: Was Rogerio Nogueira a tough fight to get up for? We’ve heard that expression before. Or were you excited when you were offered Nogueira?
Rashad Evans: Yeah I was excited to fight Nogueira. Nogueira is definitely a bigger challenge than people even give him credit for. And he’s a fight legend. He’s been in the game a long time. I grew up watching Nogueira, watching him when I was in high school and stuff like that. So he’s somebody definitely not to take in lightly. And it’s an exciting match-up for me because when it’s all said and done, I want nothing more than to fight the best fighters in the game.
Jeffrey Harris: I heard you were in a meeting with Dana White earlier. How did the meeting go?
Rashad Evans: We did talk about the potential of me going down [to middleweight to potentially face Anderson Silva]. They just really wanted to know if I can even make 185.
Jeffrey Harris: And what did you tell Dana?
Rashad Evans: I told them that I can definitely make it to 185, but it’s going to be hard to do it. For me to make 185, it would have to be a complete lifestyle change. I can’t eat some of my favorite foods anymore. So that means I can’t eat anymore pizza, no more In ‘n Out Burger, all the stuff I really like to eat. And I will only move down for a title shot
Jeffrey Harris: Dana White has talked before about the UFC waiting for some things to happen before they make Anderson Silva’s next fight. My guess is, if you are to beat Nogueira and depending how it goes, I’m expecting UFC to offer you that fight. For that fight to happen would it have be at 185 for the title or would you be more open to a catchweight super fight with Silva?
Rashad Evans: I would do a catchweight super fight, but I’m sure the UFC would make it so that it would be a title fight. But just for me to get the chance to fight Anderson Silva would be an honor in itself. I got a lot of respect for Anderson, so if I got a chance to fight him it would be great no matter what weight class.
Jeffrey Harris: If this is the case, are you OK with possibly jumping over top middleweight contender Chris Weidman considering Anderson Silva and his camp want really big fights and likely consider you a bigger fight? I mean you are a former champion. And it is so rare to get opportunities in life like this, so you have to take them when they are offered, just hypothetically speaking.
Rashad Evans: Hypothetically speaking, it is a great opportunity. I wouldn’t want to overlook – overstep Chris’ spot on a personal level of thinking that I’m better than him or anything like that or anything against what he’s accomplished. So I respect his climb in the 185 division, but at the same time we have to provide the fans with what they want to see and the UFC making the match-ups that the fans want to see. So if they thought that match-up was better, who am I to say no to that?
Jeffrey Harris: I also enjoy your analyst work on Fuel TV. I really miss the work you got to do on MMA Live on ESPN. It really looked like it was taking off right before it ended. And I know they still do some video updates on ESPN.com, but you guys were in the Warrior movie which was pretty cool. Do you miss MMA Live at all and do you like being able to work as an analyst for the sport?
Rashad Evans: I do miss MMA Live. I missed those guys I used to work with there…I like the guys I work with at Fuel TV, so I still work with some of the same guys [from MMA Live]. But I miss the lead guy, Kieren Portley, who is now over at FOX Deportes. But it was really cool doing it with MMA Live because I felt like I was part of something groundbreaking because ESPN hadn’t really gotten behind us yet. They didn’t really know the gem that they were sitting on and didn’t really understand what mixed martial arts was about. And I think it’s something that is going to come in the years to pass. I think that being on it and having a chance to be part of it definitely sparked something in me that I always want to do something like that or be a part of the sport in that capacity, in that kind of way.
Jeffrey Harris: What is ViSalus and how much did it help in camp preparing for your fight?
Rashad Evans: What it does to help me out more than anything, one of the hardest things in world for me to do is to make sure that I’m eating all the time. And its really hard for me to eat five or six meals a day. So when I was using shakes as something for in between, and it would do more than enough to make sure that I wasn’t losing too much muscle and getting just leaner at the same time. It was the perfect meal in between shakes. And right now, I’m using it more now because I have to cut down on how much food I’m going to take in, and I need to be able to function and not look like a zombie. So doing the shakes right now is saving me.
Jeffrey Harris: So is this like a powder supplement like whey protein?
Rashad Evans: Yeah, that’s exactly what it is. But they have energy drinks, they have the energy go shots, and stuff like that, that gets you going. They have a lot of snacks and stuff that comes along with it. But the main staple product is the protein. And when I first started taking it, I was like, “I don’t know man. I don’t know about this.” It just seemed kind of gimmicky for a while. But then I started really trying it – it kind of surprised me how well it worked and how much I started to like it and how much I started to depend on it to help me.
Jeffrey Harris: In your past issues with Jon Jones you accused him of being fake. Do you still think he is fake? And do you think he’s fake because you think he’s putting on a persona of being a virtuous, religious person when he really isn’t?
Rashad Evans: I don’t know how he is now, but from when I was dealing with him, that’s the impression that I got…when I was dealing with him, from my knowing him I just – I haven’t talked to Jon in a while. I haven’t been around him for a while. So I don’t know if he’s changed as a person. Everybody changes as a person. He’s been through a couple of situations that are life changing moments in your life, so maybe he could have changed. But from when I was dealing with him, when I knew him, that was my perception of him. That’s what I got from him.
Jeffrey Harris: So would you like to set the record straight on the accusations of your former camp spying on Quinton “Rampage” Jackson for your fight with him. In 2011 at a fan Q&A session, you did say [regarding Jackson’s accusations there was a spy in Greg Jackson and Jon Jones camp] “I think they did it but I don’t think Jon was a part of it. I think it was Malki [Kawa] his manager and I don’t think Jon was really in on where Malki was getting his information from.” Is that all the perspective you have or did you have a spy, a mole, a yuri in the camp of Rampage Jackson?
Rashad Evans: Honestly speaking, I didn’t really have anything to do with that camp. Even though me and Jon at the time we weren’t even like – I wasn’t a part of Jackson’s at the time that they fought. From what I heard, yeah that’s what I said. I heard that Malki had somebody, but that’s just hearsay you know.
Jeffrey Harris: But no one was feeding you information for when you fought Rampage right?
Rashad Evans: Nobody needed to feed me information when I fought Rampage.
Jeffrey Harris: Now that you are in the Blackzilian camp, would you like to share any insight on how a camp should handle the issue when you have two top guys fighting in the same weight class and MMA promotion? Is there a plan or is there something that would have to be done to make a certain fight happen? Would someone have to leave the camp in order for the fight to happen?
Rashad Evans: I still stand by fighting inside your camp is something that the two fighters would have to talk about and discuss more than anything. And that’s before the organization says that’s what it has to be. I think the two fighters need to decide on what they really want to do. If they do decide to fight each other, then one of them will have to leave the camp because it just would not be fair. I don’t think that I could train in the same camp as somebody I got to fight because at some point – it’s a fight. It’s not a game. There’s no – I’m not going to walk from away the fight and feel like I would if I lost a game. If I’m walking away from the fight and I lose, I got my ass whooped. And getting beat up is a lot different than it would be if you just lost a game. There’s no plan in MMA. It’s a serious thing.
Jeffrey Harris: There are some big names at the Blackzilians now between you, Vitor Belfort, and Alistair Overeem. So do you all have to get together with these guys and make some ground rules before they start to train there?
Rashad Evans: No, we just – it’s kind of like an unspoken thing. And it’s really just guided by the fact of respect. We respect each other and we also share with each other. It’s not like we’re trying to hoard knowledge or trying not to train with a certain person. So that vibe is never given off [of] “Eventually one day I’m going to fight you.”
Jeffrey Harris: Are there any sponsors or people you would like to thank or give a shout out to?
Rashad Evans: I would like to thank ASM Management. My manager Glenn Robinson, he does a great job for our team the Blackzilians. I’d like to thank all my teammates at the Blackzilians. If it were not for them, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do and be victorious in fights and compete the way I do. And I’d like to thank JACO Clothing for supporting me. And I’d like to ViSalus as well because they gave me a lot of support and they helped me make sure that I get as ready as I need to be for this fight.
Jeffrey Harris: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me on fight week. Good luck on Saturday.
Rashad Evans: Thank you. I appreciate it. Thank you for the questions.
Thank you to Rashad Evans for taking time out of his busy schedule to speak with us. UFC 156 will be broadcast live on Saturday, February 2 on PPV. Preliminary card fights will be shown on FX and Facebook. 411mania.com will be providing cageside coverage for the event, so don’t miss our live, play-by-play coverage set for later this weekend.