UFC light heavyweight Rashad Evans has fallen under some intense scrutiny as of late, most of it centering on his lackluster decision loss to Rogerio Nogueira back at UFC 156. Many thought that the bout wasn’t so much won by Nogueira as it was lost by Evans.
Before that, he lost a one-sided decision to light heavyweight champion Jon Jones at UFC 145 in a fight that was hyped by the motivation of some truly bad blood. Evans showed up game and ready to fight, but he just couldn’t get inside the champ’s insane reach advantage, and now he sits facing the daunting prospect of a three-fight losing streak.
‘Suga’ has a big chance to right that wrong when he steps into the cage this weekend to face Dan Henderson at UFC 161. The bout is interesting in the sense that it’s a crossroads of sorts for both fighters, as they desperately need a win to stay relevant in any sense of the term.
And while many have already written Evans off as losing his love of the fight game, he insists it’s actually quite the opposite:
“I just got back on my grind again. One thing about the fight game is that it's so easy to get caught up in the system. The thing about mixed martial arts is that everybody is always trying to get the edge. The latest and the greatest. The newest this, and the newest that. If you that, always with the newest and the latest and the greatest, you get away from everything that made you who you are. That's what happened to me.
I kind of got so caught up with trying this and trying that, and doing all these different, new things, and trying to expand my game, that I actually ended up shutting my game down. I just went back to the basics. I went old school Rocky. That's what I went back to. I was waking up early in the morning and getting my runs in, hitting the heavy bag in the garage, just old school stuff.
I don't need to have 10 people around me cheering for me when I'm hitting the mitts or have somebody get me water and wipe my face off. I don't need that. I'm a grinder. I've just got to get in there and grind. It's got to be ugly. I've got to go in there and look grizzly and just ugly. That's how I've got to get it done.” - via Bloody Elbow
So Evans admits to getting caught up in his own hype, trying to implement all of the newest and cutting-edge strategies into his training camps as the public face of his Blackzilians team. It’s rather open and honest of Evans to admit what he did wrong, especially for a fighter who’s viewed as cocky and arrogant at times.
Evans will look to get back to the basics that brought him to the UFC light heavyweight title. Perhaps his departure from his early, effective wrestling style is what has put him in a recent funk of sorts, with only one finish in the last four years (coming against Tito Ortiz in 2011). The answer to that riddle will be known soon as UFC 161 fast approaches.
Will we see the Rashad of old after a return to his old-school training, or will more and more people call for his retirement after Saturday’s card from Winnipeg?