CHICAGO – Rashad Evans is one of the most successful fighter in UFC history. His record in recent years, however, doesn’t leave that impression.
It’s been nearly five years since former UFC champ Evans (19-7-1 MMA, 14-7-1 UFC) had his hand raised in the octagon. He’s currently on a four-fight skid, but has the chance to bounce back on Saturday at UFC 225 when he meets Anthony Smith (28-13 MMA, 4-2 UFC) in the featured UFC Fight Pass prelim prior to televised prelims on FS1 and the pay-per-view card from United Center in Chicago.
During Evans’ slump he’s made all type of experimentations. From taking time off to changing weight classes to a drop in competition, it’s been a challenge for “Suga.” He’s back his former championship weight of light heavyweight for the matchup with Smith, but more than anything, Evans said he’s mentally at peace with his spot.
“I’ve been in this position for my last three fights and the last two didn’t go my way,” Evans told MMAjunkie at a UFC 225 media day. “I’ve gotten over the whole, ‘Rashad stigma’ of what Rashad can do. For me, I’m just looking to compete for me. I felt like I got so caught up in the hype of myself and what happens when you’re at the top of the sport, now you’re at the bottom. It’s all right. It’s the fear of when you’re at the top, falling and you have that whole experience of being in the position I’m in right now. Once that fear is over, you can compete.”
For Evans, the pressure of being on a slump is not as bothersome as it might be for some other fighters, he said. There are many in the sport who rely completely on the sport to carry their ego and financial security, but Evans said he’s not one of those people anymore.
At 39 and with his 24th UFC fight just around the corner, Evans has almost seen and done it all in MMA. He would have never anticipated being a position where he’s lost four fights in a row, but the knowledge that he’s competing out of passion instead of necessity gives him comfort in his result against Smith at UFC 225.
“Everybody’s like, ‘This is a do-or-die fight for me,’” Evans said. “It may be. It may be as far as my fighting career is concerned, but at the end of the day, there’s other things I can do. … I’m doing it right now because I enjoy it, and when I stop enjoying it then I’m going to stop. No matter if I’m at the top or at the bottom.”