UFC

Evans venomous ahead of UFC 167

Rashad Evans crouches in his corner before his light heavyweight fight against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC 156
Rashad Evans finished Chael Sonnen in the first round by TKO.
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Damon Martin

Damon Martin is a veteran mixed martial arts journalist who has been covering the sport since 2004. His work has been published in CNN, Bleacher Report, MMAWeekly.com, Yahoo! Sports, UFC.com and SportsIllustrated.com. He also co-hosts The Great Debate Radio MMA podcast, and has appeared on ESPN Radio and SportsNet Radio. Follow him on Twitter.

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Rashad Evans has seen a lot of ups and downs in his professional career, which started more than a decade ago when he had his first fight in 2003.

The former Michigan State wrestler made his UFC debut in 2005 after seven pro bouts, all of which took place in the span of less than seven months. As a novice MMA fighter, Evans did very well for himself by winning the second season of The Ultimate Fighter in the heavyweight division before moving down to a more natural 205 pounds

Since that moment, Evans has only known what it's like to live in the spotlight. From contender status to champion back to challenger, Evans has seen it all and pretty much done it all since he because a full time fighter 11 years ago.

But with 17 UFC fights, three title bouts and the biggest part of his life being spent inside the Octagon, Evans recently reached a point where he was losing the passion for fighting. Evans found himself just going through the motions in training camp, getting ready for fights, and not finding the same kind of vigor he once had when getting out of bed in the morning.

The result of those doldrums was a lackluster performance against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira earlier this year that left everyone baffled. Evans offered no excuses other than saying it wasn't his night, but clearly something was off. Now nine months removed from that bout, Evans can look back and see in that fight he was a shell of himself.

"I went full circle. I went to the point where I lost my reason and motive for fighting," Evans told FOX Sports. "Because once you see behind the curtain of Oz, it kind of loses its appeal and by that I mean once you see how the production works and some of the decisions they make and you may not agree with them from a competitive point of view. From a business point of view you can kind of see where they're coming from.

"Once you've got to suffer your heartbreak enough times, and climb the mountain and not get where you want to and then you kind of have to reinvent yourself."

Reinvention for Evans meant finding a new reason to fight instead of always obsessing about title shots and championship belts. There's not an interview Evans has done over the past five years where a title wasn't mentioned, and he became as consumed by it as much as the reporters who were obsessed with asking the questions. So as he examined his life and his career, Evans realized something very key in the whole discussion about why he began doing MMA in the first place — he loved fighting, he loved competing and he loved winning and everything else was just a bi-product of that passion.

Getting back to those core values is what pushed Evans to find his love of MMA again, and now there is a new fire raging inside of him — one that will be unleashed on Chael Sonnen this weekend at UFC 167.

"In my mind, whether I'm champion or not, if I don't go out there and I don't compete like I'm the baddest motherf—ker God's ever created then I'm not going to go out there and fight like it and I'm not going to go out there and train like it. To become a champion, being a champion, fighting like a champion, it's an attitude. What it comes down to — you're in the cage with me, you shouldn't have signed the f—king contract with me. You're in trouble and I'm going to beat your ass to let you know that. That's the just attitude that you've got to have. Yeah, I'm a nice guy outside the cage, but when it comes down to inside the cage, I'm a f—king assh—le," Evans said.

"It's that look like I'm going to beat your ass and enjoy it. Not because I'm getting paid to do it. Not because these fans are screaming for it. Because this is what I want to do. This is what I would do if I was doing it for free. That's how bad I want to beat your ass. That's what it's got to be about. You just drew the short straw. You should have never signed a contract to fight me."

Evans relates his new found attitude to the same kind of anger and aggression he carried into his 2011 fight against Tito Ortiz at UFC 133. That night, Evans was vicious and unrelenting when going after the former light heavyweight champion, and he attacked with the kind of ferocity that helped make him one of the best in the first place.

He's gone back to that place again for his upcoming fight against Sonnen. Evans found the animal that was hibernating deep inside his soul, and it's Sonnen's unfortunate luck that the beast was awoken ahead of their bout at UFC 167.

"Whether it's Jon Jones or Chael Sonnen. I've got to put our friendship aside," Evans said. "I may smile at Chael and speak to him or whatever the case may be. But when it comes down to it he's not going to be my friend for a week."

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