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To the outsider, one might feel that light heavyweight Rashad Evans (17-3-1) is going into this Saturday night’s fight against Dan Henderson (29-9) under a little pressure. The 33-year-old enters UFC 161 in Winnipeg after two consecutive losses, first to Jon Jones in April 2012 and then to Antônio Rogério Nogueira last February. After his last defeat, there were comments from UFC president Dana White that Evans had lost his hunger and drive. When Muscle & Fitness caught up with Evans recently during his training camp, the former light heavyweight champion of the world and winner of The Ultimate Fighter 2 didn’t sound like a man under pressure, he sounded like a man getting ready for war.
Muscle & Fitness: How did your camp go?
Rashad Evans: Camp has been amazing. It has been one of those camps where I have gotten back to myself and back to the thing that I used to do to make me the force I was before. It was more or less me getting reacquainted with myself, but it has been a great camp.
Did you get your motivation back and how?
I felt good going into the last fight it’s just that on fight night I didn’t have it. What brought it back for me is that joy of fighting. I found that through training, training hard and getting the reps through training. That’s what I really enjoy and that is what really helps you get to the place. The training is the hardest part of the whole thing, harder than the fight. If you train hard then the fight will take care of itself and the fight will be easy.
What are your keys to victory in this fight against Dan Henderson?
Well, of course the big key to victory is to avoid that right hand at all costs. I am not going to stand in front of it and block it; I just have to get out of the way. It is easier said than done, but I have to avoid it with good movement, and I have good legs. I am fast. I feel like I should be able to avoid it pretty good. Let’s be honest, he is going to come and he is put a lot of pressure. I am not going to run. I am going to stand and bang but I am going to be out of the way when he throws that right hand.
Is this a make or break fight for you?
Listen, I am 33 years old, and I have only had three losses in my entire life. I have a lot of fight left in me. If I don’t get it this time, I am going to get up there and I going to fight again. Most of the guys in the UFC now have nine and ten losses. I am not there. I am far from being done. If I lose this fight, I’ve just got to work harder to get back there. If I have to fight entry guys to get my level back or to show that I can still do it, then that is what I have to do. As far as me being done, that is the farthest thing from my mind. Everybody is asking me is it over if I lose this fight. I am like Goddam, four losses – does that mean that I have to retire? It just shows that people have a high standard of where they see me. But I am a fighter and sometimes you lose, it happens, you lose, but that doesn’t mean that I am done because I lose.
Do you think people are writing you off too early?
For sure, and people have been doing that my whole career. That has been a mantra that has been a constant my whole career that people have been writing me off. But that is fine, that is what motivates me and that is what has got me here. “Three losses, my God he should retire.” Really, three losses? Randy Couture had 15 losses and everybody is like “he is a legend, he is the greatest.” And he is, you know, he is one of the greatest. But come on.
You are coming into the fight with back-to-back losses. Does that affect your mindset?
It definitely brings back the fire, it definitely does that. That is what I needed. I believe that everything happens for a reason. I strongly believe that. This is the path that I had to take in order to get back to where I want to be, and this has lit the flame under me that I used to have before. I am up for the challenge. I want to be world champion again, so I am willing to walk through fire to get there.
Who were your training partner for this one and who will work your corner on fight night.
Vito Belort, Thiago Silva, and a bunch of different guys. It’s going to be my coach Kenny Monday, Roberto Flamingo and Tyrone Spong.
If you could meet the 16-year-old Rashad walking down the street, and knowing what you know now, what training advice would you give him?
I would have told him to do more kickboxing. I did my karate, but then I got into football. That was the one thing I wish I would have stayed with more. When I has 14 years old I was sparring and training with adults and I wasn’t that big, I was 108-112 pounds at the most. I didn’t stick with it you know because of football. I was watching UFC back then but I just got into playing football.
Can you explain how recovery has become important as you get older.
Before when I was super sore or super hurt I would just push through anything, I could push through it and the worse my body felt the better I felt I could push through it, like I could keep going night and day. As I got older it got harder for me to recover from those days, and I found out when I pushed to those days it ended up hurting more because I opened myself up to injuries. Now, I listen to my body a little bit more, and I know that when I am feeling a certain way it is time for me to take a break. If I need a little bit more rest then I take a little more rest. I am not shy about doing that at all. I can make it up in other ways you know. For me to make up a training session is to rest some time and when I am feeling great I can push it hard. If I am feeling anything at all where I think I might hurt myself, then I pull back. To make it through the training camp is the most important thing for me. I have only had one training camp where I didn’t made it through the training camp right, and that was the fight with Shogun, and I never want to happen again because that was the worst [Evans had to pull out of the fight]. I tore my ACL.
How are your hands these days?
I have had problems with my hands, I have had problems with my right hand, but I have been taking care of them really well, taping them up and really taking care of them. Before, when I was younger I would even spar or hit mitts without any wraps on at all and be “if it hurts it hurts” and hit concrete walls and all kinds of stupid shit like that. I take care of my hands now, because that is how I make my money so I want to be able to use them.
How are you managing making fight weight as you get older?
It got to be at bit of a struggle, but I nipped it in the bud, and I got tight on my diet and my training regimen. I figured my body out. Before, when I was younger it was easier to figure out my body. But now, my body has changed a bit. Ever since I turned 33 my body did a weird shift, and I am getting used to my 33 body. I have to eat a whole lot cleaner, before I could eat whatever I wanted to and just burn, but now I have to watch what I put in my body a whole lot more and try to make sure I hit all the areas that I need to so that my body feels good.
Are you still as motivated as ever?
As a fighter, no matter what, it comes down to motivation and how you are motivated to go out there and to compete. I have to be super motivated to go out there and compete, [and if I do], I am hard to deal with. That is where I am at my best, I have to be true to myself. I can’t take anything for granted and I have to through the process of allowing myself to build the fight up inside of me by going into the recess of my mind and my feelings and my emotions, so I can bring it out when it is time to fight.
What are the key things you would advise any aspiring amateur or pro MMA fighter?
Persistence is the key. Having a deep belief in yourself and who you are. For me, I don’t fight for the belt, if I have a chance to fight for the belt, that is great. To be a champion, that is not enough for me. When it comes down to it, I am competing against myself, every single time. To go out there an express myself to the fullest, the hardest I can go, because if you compete for something tangible like a belt or whatever, it will lose its luster and wont’ be the hottest thing anymore or you may not get that opportunity. If you compete in a different place, where you love to compete where the one thing in your mind is that I am the best, and I am going to show everyone I am going to show myself that I am the absolute best, that I can ‘t get beat – that is where it comes from, and that is what it has to be. Title shot or no title shot, whatever it may be, it doesn’t matter man. You’ve got to compete because you think you are the absolute best and when somebody steps into that cage, they made a mistake. They made a mistake because they should know never to pick a fight with you, and that’s the way I feel.
** During the course or our interview, M&F brought up the workout that was outlined in an April 2012 interview that Rashad did with Muscle & Fitness magazine. We asked the UFC star if his workout had changed much since. He said he had added on the following:
“I do more sled pushes now to push my body for that feeling of complete exhaustion in my legs. I also do a lot of a thing called Jacob’s Ladder, which burns your leg out really bad.”
Here is the workout outlined in that magazine interview:
|Chinup Leg Raise Hold||2||30 seconds|
|Pullup Leg Raise Hold||2||30 seconds|
|Treadmill Farmer’s Walk||2||1 minute|
|Slide Board||2||15 each|
|Side Split Squat||2||10 each leg|
*Evans will use 225–240 pounds, approximating the weight of his opponent on fight night.