Spike TV’s The Ultimate Fighter has certainly produced some quality combatants who have made respectable showings in the Octagon. Some have made serious statements in big fights against favored opponents — 2004 TUF champ Matt Serra knocked out Georges St. Pierre for the welterweight belt in 2007 and Forrest Griffin outpointed Quinton Jackson at UFC 86. But the most heavily punctuated victory by a TUF champ came at the end of an overhand right from Rashad Evans — a perfectly placed punch that put Chuck Liddell to sleep and, perhaps, into obscurity.

Now, the undefeated Evans (12-0-1) is winding down training camp for this weekend’s heavily-stacked UFC 92: The Ultimate 2008 in Las Vegas, where he hopes to get his hands on the UFC light heavyweight belt. But he’ll have to get through fellow TUF champion Griffin to do it. Confident, but not cocky, “Sugar” explains how his training and athleticism could pave the way to a title.

M&F: What are your thoughts on getting a title shot against Forrest Griffin?

Rashad Evans: It’s a wonderful opportunity. We both come from the same background. This is an excellent position to be in. Two Ultimate Fighter alumni, so this is a great opportunity.

M&F: What do you think about being in a position to win a title at this stage of your career?

RE: I think it’s an excellent position. I’m very very happy. It’s a dream come true. I didn’t know what to think coming in to the UFC. I’m definitely pleasantly surprised at the whole thing. It means a lot to me but at the same time you can’t make the fight bigger than it is. You just have to go out there and perform well.

M&F: Do you have any physical advantages over Forrest that will come into play on Saturday (Dec. 27)?

RE: Maybe that he’s a bigger guy so I don’t have to carry around all that size for five rounds.

M&F: Who do you think has better hands between the two of you?

RE: I think my hands are quicker than his. I think my technique is better on my punches. But we’ll see whose punches land. On video it looks one way but in reality, it can be totally different.

M&F: Will reach be an issue?

RE: Nah. Everybody I fight is always bigger than me. I’m a shrimp for my weight class. Everybody is at least two or three inches taller than me, so I’m used to the reach.

M&F: Does weight training play a role in your fight prep?

RE: It does. I do a conditioning routine. Crossfit kind of stuff. A lot of practical movements, bodyweight exercises, things like that. I may do a circuit where I get on the Aerodyne for 30 seconds, get off and do 30 seconds of push-ups, 8-10 pull-ups, some snatch throws — eight of those each side — then side to side sprints, about 15 feet each way, then some rope pulls, about 15 seconds. It’s just a lot of circuit stuff to confuse the body.

M&F: What do you weigh between fights? Do you keep in pretty good shape between fights?

RE: I’m usually 220-225. Right now, I’m like 215 so my weight is good.

M&F: What is your diet like getting ready for a fight like this?

RE: I’ve cleaned it up a lot. A lot of clean proteins, nothing fried, I eat sweet potatoes, brown rice and that kind of stuff.

M&F: Do you use any supplements like protein or creatine?

RE: I use a supplement called Progenics that I really like. It’s a recovery drink that helps you feel awesome after you’re done working out. I usually get a vitamin IV bag with a doctor in Santa Fe. He fills it up with B5, B6 and all these minerals. It takes 30-40 minutes and I do it once a week. Afterwards, I feel amazing for the next couple of days. I haven’t gotten sick at all. It helps me fight off sickness, since I’m beating my body up with all this training.

M&F: Who do you think is the better pure athlete and does that matter at all?

RE: I’m probably the better athlete but what’s going to count in this fight is who is willing to dig deep and go after it when the fight is on the line.

M&F: What kind of fight do you think fans can expect?

RE: I think it’s going to be a fast-paced fight. I think he’s going to want to try take me out and I’m just gonna power down, so I think it’s gonna be a fast-paced fight.

Nickname: Sugar
Record: 12-0-1 (4 KO, 2 submissions)
Height: 5’11”
Fight Weight: 205 pounds (light heavyweight)
Hometown: Lansing, Michigan
Residence: Niagara Falls, NY
Team: Jackson’s Submission Fighting

>> For more information on UFC 92: The Ultimate 2008, visit www.ufc.com.