I recently conducted an exclusive interview with Former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans. We spoke about his injury that’s kept him out of action for over a year, potential WWE rumors, his Blackzilian teammate Anthony Johnson vs. Alexander Gustafsson and Daniel Cormier vs. Jon Jones.
The first question I have for you is I know you have been injured, what’s your health status, how are you feeling right now?
I’m actually feeling pretty good kind of started off slow, getting my body back into shape again and recapping my knee keep it going for relax complete and keep that going up and down movement. That was really kind of hard for me and I don’t know, it’s a lot more mentally than it was physically just know that it was going to be alright because in MMA you have so many transitional physicians and you don’t think about how much you got to trust your legs and until you need it too, you know you have one of them injured and then you realize ok you can now this movement now, all over again.
Absolutely and definitely with all your movement in the cage, it’s definitely helps to have everything going on all cylinders.
All I have really is my size I mean my movement I don’t have much size or anything like that so, my movement is key if I can’t move the way I used to move then I’m not gonna fight the same.
I caught your last fight with Chael Sonnen and you absolutely destroyed him what’s your mindset going into a fight, like where do you need to get before you get into the cage?
You know it’s at a medium and for the longest time I had hard time really trying to figure out what was my I can’t of learned a little bit more a mix between being afraid and being super confident and it got to be like right in the middle, if I am too relax and I’m nervous enough then I’m not going to respond the right way, but then if I’m not confident enough and I’m going to have all these red lights in my mind it’s going to hold me off my performance is that my mind will freezes before. When I’m in that zone, I’m enjoying myself and having fun but the fear of what could happen keeps me sharp and that is what I need to feel.
You obviously were doing something right, you’re one of the longest ten years fighter at the UFC. How did you get involved with mix martial arts, I know you are a standout wrestler, but how did you make the transition into mix martial arts?
You know it kind of just something that happened, kind of found it you know there was a lot of time in my life where I was in a transition, I just graduated from college and I was coaching preschool wrestling in our city. I discovered that I was competing from a different place when I was a coach and I still had that burning that fire inside me that I could distinguish but just being a coach. So, I met a guy coincidentally long after that, that was doing he called NHB, because that’s what it was called, No Holds Barred I went to the gym in Lansing, Michigan and it wasn’t like a typical gym like the one you see now it was more like a fight pro gym. It was really like that movie in a warehouse under a bridge next were railroad in Lansing of Michigan in the bad part of town. And it was six of us and we will go there and we would train and we will just beat the hell out of each other and it was something fun for me to do and I didn’t think that I could become a professional, you know like what you see in Frye or in the UFC it was just something fun for me to do to pass the time until I got into my career, which I wanted to be in law enforcement. I wanted to be a police officer, so it was just something fun for me to do and it end up I just land into something else to became something that I thought about obsessively I couldn’t do anything, everything it was just all about the fights, I watch fights constantly and it was just something that consume my being and when I knew that what I had to do for the rest of my life.
One of my favorite season for the ultimate fighters is the second season that’s actually the first season I watched all the way through, you were on there you won the whole thing. Can you explain what it’s like to live in that house and to be a part of that show?
You know it is a difficult process because, from the outside looking in, I saw in season two I’ve seen the first season, so I kind of start to have that feel of what it was really like because when you there is something totally different and at that point I really didn’t have that much exposure to be on camera at all and just that part alone was shocking. But then just, for me the show kind of showing, going into the show even to get on as the underdog and when I was on the show it seems like everything was going against me but after a while it kind of change to you know what I’m just going to do my best and try as hard as I can and no matter what if I loose I will just go back to my life and do whatever. But no matter what I’m telling you these guys are going to feel me and that was my main goal everything that time, just to make the guy feel me, just to make sure that if I lost I was going to make sure he was never going to fight me again and that was my goal and I kept on winning. But there was something strange that happened on the show, when you’re on the show and you’re in there for weeks and weeks on end, it’s really kind of like it puts away from you a little bit, you kind of forget like, what is life, what is reality? Because you start to get really comfortable when you’re TV life change around and you’re getting comfortable with conversation and things because every time on the show like don’t say that now hold it and wait for the cameras around for you to talk about that. So you can do learn how to be in front of the camera life and learn the whole TV side of it so. It was weird and see how some people every year they go on the show and they seem to forget why they are there. They seem to forget why they are there and they want to go home, because it is easy to do, it’s one of the easiest thing to do in the world is forget why you’re actually on the show and that’s the key to one of the show even to being successful that’s don’t forget, don’t forget why your actually there.
From there you have gone on to have an amazing career so far I mean you’re one of the many people that I know of will have beaten Tito Ortiz, Rampage Jackson, and Chuck Liddell and you know it seems like the light heavyweight division is getting very stacked again with a lot of great competition, we have Daniel Cormier fighting John Jones coming up and we have Alexander Gustafson taking on Anthony Johnson. What are your thoughts on those two big fights coming up in your division?
Ah man it’s going to be a terrific fight of course, first let’s talk about Daniel Cormier and Anthony Johnson, it’s an interesting matchup because John has never really stayed so long with the rushing ability and so roughly he is going to need rushing ability that Cormier have he’s a guy who’s going to be in your face the whole time he wants to know, really just make it an ugly fight keep the pressure in your face make you work harder than him because that’s the key to be defeat make his guy were harder than him and the same philosophy is Cain Velasquez had. it’s just you know just keep the pressure on him eventually they’re going to break where one mistake leads to another bigger mistake pretty soon the flood gates are opening and the door that’s what you want to do that’s just the mindset. But then you know you go and get to Jon Jones, who is arguably one of the best UFC light heavyweight fighters ever when it comes to your technique, mindset and you know Sean have a heart to even dig himself out of holes when he gets himself in a hole in a fight it’s a unique situation for both of them you know John Jones has never work so hard as he sees and he’s definitely going to want to bring the skills that he has it’s a tough one to call because it really is because I can see it going both ways but it’s really hard to say that you know to look away and not knowledge to Jon Jones has done to say what he’s in really big trouble with GC because Jon is safe with us already.
As far as Alexander Gustafson and AJ, I think it’s a very big fight I favor AJ on this one is not because he’s my teammate but because the standpoint of who’s got more to gain in a situation and I do have a problem with Alexander Gustafson, but actually I commend him on how much he’s a lot better since the Jon Jones fight just his evolution over the last year and a half I just been tremendous I don’t think he could close the gap and become the fighter that he has become. One thing that I has picked him upon he’s kind of acting like he’s a champion, like he’s an on-call championed and know disses with John and having one of the best fights in light heavyweight history he really Jon, he has really but Jon in a position that no one has ever put John in before, he did the can of feeling but the truth of the matter is he is not the champion and I wonder if he’s going to be able to go out there with the mindset and go out there and fight like he’s a challenger like he’s hungry enough and meet the hunger of AJ and that’s where I don’t think he’s going to be able to do. He’s going to be defeated and you know what I fought John and I got knock down I think is going to be really taking it lightly and I don’t think that his own plan and he’s not going to know how to deal with AJ because AJ has a lot of heart.
He definitely he really needs to what’s watch out because Anthony Johnson is a very tough fighter and if he sees his opening he’s going to finish Gustafson.
I tell you right now man I share with a lot of guys in my days and you know share field with a lot of great strikers with a lot of power and I tell you right now, Anthony Johnson is right up there when it comes to just that power where if he hits you probably might be waking up on the ground or he will put you on your feet pretty fast. He has fast and explosive powers in his hand and feet and his movement makes him really hard to predict on what’s really coming next so. I think that’s going to be the biggest challenge for Gustafson being able to stand up with AJ and be able to strike him.
Speaking of, Anthony Johnson’s been your teammate, what’s it like for you transitioning to being on your team in Florida now, what do you think of the dynamic with your whole team?
I think the dynamic on the team is great, we’ve had our rough spot, we were built up to be the Blackzilians then we had our little hype train derailed to say the least and we made it through that and we put together some consistency and some great fights and we have great fighters from out of this camp. What I’m excited about is these up and coming guys that we got coming up, you know we’ve got a lot of young talents on our team, the guys that just dedicated their lives to just living in a gym and just training in the gym. If it’s they are smart about it they can even strive to become better and it’s really inspiring for guys like myself and Vitor Belfort when we go to the gym and these young guys are just there and they’re pushing out and making us want to go out there and train, train harder because when you see these young guys, these up and coming guys pushing themselves to the limit, you’re like you know what I got to deal with myself because you’re looking up to me for that.
Something else I wanted to touch on because you’ve actually been the Light Heavyweight Champion. I talked to Aaron Rodgers from the Packers a couple a weeks ago and it always interests me to find out, what’s going through your mind when you win a championship is it validation for you, what was going through your mind when you won the title?
You know when I won the title it was, it was a moment where I was like because I was always a guy who was never was supposed to do you know. I was one of the guys who was supposed to do hours of work in, I had talent but there was always a reason why I probably wouldn’t do it I was supposed to fall, until I did all of a sudden wow I really did it I did it and it was unbelievable feeling, but the whole thing happened so fast and just happened from the you know me having the Chuck Liddell fight and then just rolled right into the Forrest (Griffin) fight, at that time in my life it was very busy I just had my daughter it was a crazy time my (14:56) wow this is an unbelievable accomplishment and that’s why you know I’m working back to get there again because I know this time around will be that much different. I guess it’s like the road you have to take and the harder the road is the more time the more secure you might not make it but when you arrive at that destination it just make it that much sweeter. I think that way right now the feeling that I have been having just not been in the sport fighting for over a year now and it won’t be until like another year and a half before I fight again. Just been out just being able to sit back and just watch you know people saying he’s done he’s washed up and people forget say things about you and it’s hard because you know what you can do, you know what you’re capable of but you hear what people say and you see people looking at you a certain way, and you read articles about you. It’s difficult sometimes not to get caught up with that and not get too upset about it just making my road to be champion even better and if they can just effort to get back there it’s that much better because when I get there is going to be you well worth it.
Absolutely and I mean for those people who say all that stuff they have never step foot in the octagon and for someone like you who has been around, going on 10 years now in the UFC at least, I mean you have a record of 19-3-1 and I like them to show me somebody else who has post those kind of numbers.
I know have put in the work, I know I have put the work in and I know what I have the credentials and everything else like that but I feel like I’m very disrespected sometimes know I’m saying, maybe I’m been paranoid but I feel disrespected by everybody sometimes I even feel the suspected by the UFC oh yeah that’s how you feel about me but it’s just the way of the game, the entertainment industry it’s just life in general I guess, people have a short memory and is what you have done for me lately if you haven’t done for me nothing so whatever you have done before you haven’t done anything it doesn’t mean anything that’s the mindset that people have and it’s like if you’re not doing that right now is like you never done it if he can do that for me now forget about it.
I know exactly what you mean. I have one more question for you, there was a lot of rumors on the Internet and I just want to clear this up. There were rumors that you were talking to WWE about possibly jumping there to work. How does something like that get started?
You know, I’ve see some professional wrestlers, oh yeah maybe one day I definitely give that a try and then after that it’s kind of snowball into that. But you know I mean what if I want to be a professional wrestler maybe there is a situation where I would want to do professional wrestling but for the most part after I’m done with fighting because I just want to be able to live a normal life where I’m able to maybe dedicate my time to my kids, I love my kids and I miss a lot them growing up just because what I do now. so maybe I’ll just sit back and follow them around just to be a normal dad and support them in the things they want in life and that’s what I rather do for the rest of my life than maybe do something that wrestling, feeling just like something for I want to my dad or couple of times I don’t know how they do it but, for the most part when I’m done fighting I’m just going to maybe do some analysis work but for the most part just take care my kids and just family dreams.
Interview conducted by Mike Nagel