Former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans isn’t getting a ton of publicity as of late. He recently got back into the win column with a split decision over Dan Henderson at UFC 161 after two straight losses to Jon Jones and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. Evans sits at number four in the rankings and is looking to claw back into a coveted 205-pound title shot.
Evans will face off against friend and fellow “UFC Tonight” broadcast partner Chael Sonnen in the co-main event of UFC 167 from Las Vegas this Saturday. A bout with the number seven-ranked Sonnen sounds like a huge bout on paper, but in reality, it’s Sonnen’s highly publicized spat with Wanderlei Silva that has been occupying all the news surrounding “The American Gangster.”
“Suga” appeared on today’s edition of “The MMA Hour” to discuss that odd dynamic with Ariel Helwani. Evans admitted that he would have liked Sonnen’s TU: Brazil 3-centered bout with Silva to be announced at a later time after UFC 167:
“This is a fight that’s kind of not getting the burn. Yeah, I kind of felt like that because we have the one element that we are friends and stuff like that and it wasn’t going to be that kind of trash talking. But you know, I was hoping for a little bit more sporty banter to make it fun for the fans and stuff like that. But that whole situation in Vegas with Wanderlei and Chael kind of took a life of its own I guess.”
Evans is referring to the now infamous confrontation that Silva and his entourage initiated with Sonnen at September’s Mr. Olympia Expo in Las Vegas. There’s a ton of bad blood between Sonnen and “The Axe Murderer,” and no bout between two friends is going to overshadow that long-awaited grudge match.
Besides, Evans and Sonnen are friends. They may not have started out that way, but Evans detailed how he came to become friends with Sonnen after initially not liking his over-the-top trash talk and persona:
“When you don’t know Chael, you kind of assume things about him. At first, I didn’t really know how to read into that whole, the talking trash. He just did it at another level. It kind of took me by surprise.”
So perhaps UFC 167’s co-main event isn’t getting the publicity it could have because fans know that Evans and Sonnen are indeed friends. Helwani was quick to ask if Evans is ready put that friendship aside for the sake of fighting. Evans immediately replied that he has prepared himself mentally for the task at hand and that there’s simply no love lost in the fight game:
“I definitely separate colleague from the person I’m going to fight on Saturday. I did it systematically over the last ten weeks. I have talked to him a couple times in the ten weeks. I have to make it a fight. If I got an opportunity to end the fight with an elbow in the face, I can’t be worried about, ‘this is my friend Chael.’ I gotta be able to do I need to do to win the fight. We’re both competitors and we’re both in the same weight class. This is the fight business, and when you’re in the fight business, you gotta fight anybody.”
Evans seems re-motivated after Dana White questioned his drive after the lackluster loss to Nogueira at UFC 156 this February. It’ll be a battle of two highly effective MMA wrestlers when Evans and Sonnen lock horns in Vegas. The winner will likely find themselves on the outside of 205 pound title discussion, especially with a finish. Will Evans continue to pick up big name wins, or will his good friend “Uncle Chael” send him spiraling back down the totem pole?