MF meets former UFC champ Rashad Evans

MF meets former UFC champ Rashad Evans | Men's Fitness UK
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You broke your hand in your last fight. How is it now?
My hand is healing up pretty good. I’m rehabbing it and stretching out the ligaments and tendons to regain the strength that I had in it before. At therapy the other day I had 65kg of squeezing pressure in my left hand but only 5kg of squeezing pressure in my right, so there’s a long way to go, but I’ll get there.
Have you been able to do any training while it’s been healing?
When I still had pins in my hand they were sticking out of the skin, so I couldn’t even do cardio because of the risk of sweat getting in and causing an infection. I’m able to do some training again now that they’re out, but it’s hard because I’m used to going 100 per cent the whole time and I can’t do that in every position yet. I’m hoping to be healthy enough to get in the cage and fight again in February.

You recently formed a new camp at Imperial Athletics in Florida. What’s the set-up there?

Our team is called the Blackzilians, because when we first started it was pretty much half black guys, half Brazilian guys. I think it was Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva who said it first. It was just a bunch of guys who came from various gyms who wanted to leave all the drama and everything else behind them and have a place where they could get the work in that they needed. The mentality is everyone for each other and everyone trying to help each other out. Now we’ve got white Blackzilians and all kinds of other Blackzilians there!

You’re coming off an impressive win over Tito Ortiz at UFC 133 where you looked really aggressive. Do you think you would have fought the same way if Greg Jackson was still in your corner?

It’s hard to say. Greg Jackson’s a great coach, but different coaches bring out different aspects of you as a fighter. Mike van Arsdale was one of my coaches at Jackson’s, but since we moved to Imperial he’s got to know me a lot better. Now he understands what makes me tick and knows how to motivate me and to get me in that red zone where I’m ready to go out there and just smash someone! That was the plan against Tito - to go out there and be vicious and aggressive.

You’re next in line to face the winner of Jon Jones vs Lyoto Machida for the light-heavyweight title. Would you rather beat Machida and avenge your only career loss, or beat Jones and gain some closure after all the bad blood between you?
I would rather fight Jon Jones, just because of our personal issues and everything. [While Evans was injured, Jones replaced him in a title fight which Evans felt was badly timed and disrespectful since they trained in the same camp – Ed.] It’d make me feel better and I’d sleep better at night! I think this new approach would help me a lot against Jones, because he’s never faced me like this. Even before, he never trained with me when I was at 100 per cent.
You’ve gone on record saying that Jones’s public persona is fake. Is that just trash talk or do you genuinely believe it?
He is fake, there’s no way round it. He’s just not who he says he is. He comes across in a certain way to the public in terms of being a Christian and everything, but he’s really not so much.

After fighting Jones do you think you’ll be able to bury the hatchet?

No, I’ll never be his friend. I don’t have time for fake people in my life. If you cross me and show me what kind of person you are, I won’t give you the chance to do it again, especially someone with that kind of character - nothing good can come of it. I’m too old to be worrying about people who I’ve called friends in my life who turn out to be backstabbers.
Would you consider going back to Jackson’s in the future if Jones was no longer training there?
I will never go back to Jackson’s. I think with Greg Jackson and those guys it was a straight violation. I will always respect them for what they’ve done for me and my career, but for the most part I’ve got no love for those guys in so far as going back to their camp.

You lost the light-heavyweight championship to Machida at UFC 98. What would you do differently in a rematch?
I would actually fight him and not just watch him! Last time we fought I caught myself watching out for what he was going to do, trying to second-guess it in his movements. But if you’re sitting there watching somebody you really can’t be aggressive enough to implement your gameplan and eventually something that you’re watching will catch you.
How do you think Machida matches up against Jones and who do you pick to win that fight?
I’m picking JonesMachida has more of an advantage than most guys because he trains with Anderson Silva – who Jones has based a lot of his style and his tricky footwork on – so he should be able to match him on the feet. But when it comes to the wrestling and judo, Jones is a big, strong guy, and I don’t know how Machida’s going to handle having that big body on him when they’re in close. That’s where the difference will be in this fight, how well Jones can use his wrestling ability to control Machida.
You’ve been in some amazing fights and you always come across as an articulate guy and a great representative for the sport, so why do you think some fans still boo you?
When I go in there to fight, I’m cocky. But I have to be, because if I don’t make the other guy believe I’m better than him then how am I going to win the fight? The fight is fought on many different levels and one of those is the mental level. If I can go in there and make my opponent start second-guessing himself and stop believing in what he does, then I’ve already got one up on him. All I really have to do then is physically impose my gameplan on him and it’s lights out. Do you actually think I won all these fights because I was the better fighter? No, I wasn’t the better fighter. I was just the smarter fighter. And if that means I come off as cocky and the fans don’t like it, then so be it.
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Sam Razvi wrote for Men’s Fitness UK (which predated and then shared a website with Coach) between 2011 and 2016.