Rashad Evans opens up to his friend and former NFL star Brendon
Ayanbadejo about recent losses, Jon Jones, his relationship with
UFC president Dana White and what he has learned from Ray
The full interview is below:
Brendon Ayanbadejo: I’m just going to start off right off
the bat with the heavy hitter. You ready? This isn’t your boy
on the phone, this is the media right here. You ready?
Rashad Evans: I’m ready, I’m ready,
BA: With three disappointing losses, one losing the belt, one in
an opportunity to win the belt back and one in a fight you were
expected to win but lost, what did you learn from those
RE: What I learned from them really in a sense
through losing I learned a way to win. Every single time I’ve
lost I’ve found a way to reinvent myself and come back.
It’s through losing you learn more valuable lessons than you
do when you’ve won. I’ve been saying for this for
awhile, all the time I was winning I was slowly losing. A piece of
what I was doing, a piece of my technique was getting overlooked
because I was winning. I had the success. It was masked by the
success. When I lost, it brought everything to light and it allowed
me to make the changes I needed to make.
BA: That reminds me of the 18-0 Patriots going and losing in the
biggest one they basically had to win and they didn’t do it.
What does that say about a guy like [Chris] Weidman or a guy like
RE: In what respect, you mean? As far as them
BA: Are you saying they’ll be a better fighter after they
lost a fight?
RE: Yeah, I think the last fight that Jones fought
is gonna make him a better fighter. Even though he got the nod on
the card, he definitely felt a loss, because it wasn’t up to
his standards, it wasn’t up to what he normally does. It
wasn’t that fantastic style he always wins in. When that
happens you feel like you’re losing a bit of yourself. But if
you’re smart you look at it like, ‘OK his is what I
need to do a little more of. This is what went wrong in the last
fight.’ You find a way to rebuild yourself. A piece of him
did lose and he does have to come back.
With Weidman, the formula to his success is that he
doesn’t know what it is to lose. He doesn’t know what
that feeling is like. It’s a process for him. His naievete is
what’s keeping him from feeling that loss. Losing comes in
phases. I think he experienced a piece of that in the first round
with Anderson Silva. He felt that feeling.
BA: With those three fights, the three that you had lost, we
know they were tough for you. Which one would you have back and
RE: The one that I would have back is the Nogueira
fight. I would love to have that one back and I’d love to do
that one again. That was a fight that I didn’t rise to the
occasion where I needed to. I just wasn’t there. I
wasn’t present. And I can handle losing as long as I compete.
I can’t handle losing when I don’t compete. And I have
nobody else but myself to blame and that becomes hard to forgive
BA: I knew you were gonna pick that fight for some reason and
I’m actually glad you did. That says a lot about you, because
the stakes weren’t the highest for that fight of course, but
you expected something out of yourself and you didn’t give
that, so that says a lot about you.
Is this Rashad Evans better than the undefeated Rashad Evans? Is
this Rashad Evans here today, is this a more confident, better,
more complete Rashad Evans than that one?
RE: Yes, this is a more confident Rashad Evans
than the undefeated one and mainly because what I had to go through
to get to where I am right now. All the hardships I had to endure
in my career as well as in my personal life has readied to me where
I am right now. Enough is not said about the mentality of a
fighter, what it takes to go into a fight and even what it takes to
get ready for a fight. It’s such a mental process that really
nobody like to talk about it. It’s something that is so
monumental on a fighter’s success, how well does he prepare?
How well does he handle pressure? What does he do when he feels
that feeling of vulnerability? And how you deal with yourself when
you’re feeling that vulnerability is the key to success. I
truly feel like I know how to handle myself when I’m feeling
vulnerable. I accept the fact that I can’t change the outcome
or I can’t predict what it’s going to be. I can only do
one thing and that’s fight my ass off and do the best that I
can do. Just really having a grip of understanding what that meant
in all sense of the word is freedom in itself and it’s a
victory in itself.
BA: I want to ask you about a couple of people, take it off of
you for a second. Over the last couple of years you’ve become
friends with Ray Lewis and how has he helped? Ray Lewis is a
motivator and a leader and that’s kind of what you’re
becoming in the UFC. What have you learned from Ray Lewis and what
sticks out bout Ray Lewis and your dynamic and that
RE: One thing I learned from Big Brother Ray is
that when he hurt his arm, I went to go see him when he went home
and he told me he was so hurt. The fact that they retired him on
TV, they gave him his eulogy. He said, ‘Oh man, no man should
have to hear his own eulogy.’ But he said, I’m not
finished, mark my words, in eight or nine weeks I’m gonna be
on that field playing and he did exactly what he said he was gonna
do. He did it by doing one thing, he said I’m gonna grind. He
said I’m gonna do old-school grind. I’m gonna leave all
the weights alone. I’m gonna go back to doing situps, ab
wheel, pushups, pullups and getting myself to be the best Ray
Lewis, the best they ever seen. And he did exactly that.
That’s one thing that Ray talked to me about whenever I
lost a fight, we sat down and we had a talk. The talk wasn’t
about he fight itself, it was an overall approach to my training.
He said, you gotta make this a lifestyle. You don’t just do
this because you have a fight coming up. It’s a lifestyle.
Everything you do has to be that. You are that until you decide to
do something else in your life. But while you’re doing this,
this is your lifestyle. Everything you eat, everything you put in
your body, everything that you surround yourself with has to be
about that. That’s how you’re gonna get the best out of
yourself. He said, you have to embrace that grind, bro.
That’s what he said.
BA: I’ve heard it many times. Let’s come back to
UFC. How do you feel about Dana White?
RE: I feel that Dana White has done a tremendous
job to turn a sport that was shunned away and pretty much not going
[anywhere] and brought it to what it is now, which is a worldwide
growing sport. He’s created tremendous opportunities.
He’s kind of polarized with how people feel about him, but I
would say this. Me and him have had dynamics in the relationship I
have a tremendous amount of respect for him, because whatever he
has to say about me, he always make sure he says it to me first.
And he always keeps it 100 percent real. So I got no problem with a
man who always keeps it 100 percent real when he’s gotta say
BA: And so kind of the first thing you said about Dana White is
that he transformed a sport, which leads me to ask you: is Dana
White the biggest star in the UFC?
RE: I would definitely say he’s the biggest
star – him and the Fertitta brothers. I think it was
definitely a team effort. Nobody really talks about Lorenzo or
Frank. But having a relationship with Lorenzo Fertitta, you see the
passion he has in anything he sets his mind to. He has that same
mentality that Dana White has, that’s that pitbull mentality.
One they get something, they lock onto it and they don’t let
go until they get what they want. They’re kind of like both
the same, but they have different approaches of getting it. Dana
Whire is more in-your-face, this is how you’re gonna do it,
take it or leave it. Lorenzo Fertitta is more business savvy, more
businessman about it. They have the same mentality and that’s
to get it done.
I would say both of those guys are the stars of the UFC. Dana
White is definitely the star. He’s created jobs for 385
fighters and it’s just amazing that we can say this is our
job, it’s what we love to do.
BA: Is there a fighter more popular than Dana White? Is there a
figure in the UFC bigger in star power?
RE: I don’t think so. I don’t think
there’s one star bigger than Dana White in the UFC.
BA: Could you imagine Roger Goodell being the most famous dude
in the NFL?
RE: I couldn’t imagine it. It’s kind
of crazy. Dana handles it really well. He likes the fanfare, he
embraces it. There’s always a piece of him that’s that
same guy that was the trainer. And he remembers what it was like to
be that guy. He doesn’t take it for granted. Some guys get
like, ‘Oh I’m so over this.’ He’s
doesn’t get over it. He’s not over it. He still loves
it, he loves every bit of it. If he walks out of the lobby and they
tell him he can take the back away or take the lobby, he’s
gonna say I want to see the fans. He’s gonna walk through the
BA: I’ve got three questions left, ’Shad. I watched
the 20 years of UFC the other day, it was amazing. I texted you
when I watched it and we talked a little bit about how cool it was.
With “The Ultimate Fighter,” it seems like it made the
UFC semi-mainstream. How are “The Ultimate Fighter”
competitors treated now compared to the early days when you won
“TUF”, when Diego [Sanchez] was in it? What’s
different between then and now?
RE: I would say it got a lot easier, because the
system as been perfected. When we were doing it the first two
seasons, we were kind of like the guinea pigs. Right now these guys
got it a little bit easier. When I was on the show, it was about
bringing out the most vulnerable part of you when it comes to
training. They wanted to see you cry, they wanted to see you break,
they wanted to see you almost give up. They wanted all those
things, because it was good for TV. Now I think they know what they
want, they have a program for how it should go, how it should
always follow the format. With the first two seasons, they
didn’t have that. We were still doing challenges. It was all
over the place. It was a reality TV show thing at the time to do
challenges. Nowadays I would say they have it easier than we
BA: What about their credibility within the UFC?
RE: I think the credibility is still expected of
them, because there’s been so many guya who come off
“The Ultimate Fighter” show and do phenomenal. Forrest
Griffin did a very good job of setting the standard, even which I
had to follow. Continuing to be successful off the show, getting
championships and all those things. I had to beat him to become UFC
champion, but also to be the total “Ultimate Fighter”
champion. I faced every single other “Ultimate Fighter”
in my weight class and I won.
BA: We’re talking about champions, let’s talk about
legends and those who formed the sport. With you beating Tito Ortiz
twice – well, twice in my book, once was a draw –
beating [Chuck] Liddell, beating [Dan] Henderson, beating
“Rampage” [Jackson], they’re all legends. When
we’re watching UFC’s greatest knockouts, we see Rashad
Evans pop up on the screen. How does it make you feel to be
considered a legend in the sport?
RE: It makes me feel amazing. It’s kind of
unreal to be honest. It’s really hard to smell the roses
while you’re alive, because I haven’t had a chance to
have that perspective. I haven’t been away from the sport to
say, look at my legacy, look at my print, look what I did. At
glimpses, I get a chance to see wow these people really appreciate
the work I’ve done. Sometimes I look back on some of the
things I’ve done and I say man, I can’t believe it did
that. It’s kind of surreal to be honest, because I never
expected to be in this position. I always hoped it, I always
dreamed it. But to be honest, I really never knew. I was just gonna
go out there and fight as hard as I can. For me, my biggest dream
was just to be able to compete. I used to have this house in
Lansing, Michigan and I had this dirt hill that was pretty high and
I used to run it all the time. I used to imagine me having my hand
raised, holding the belt and being considered a legend and all
these things. It’s so crazy how everything has come to
fruition. It’s almost like I wrote what was going to happen
and it’s happening right now. It’s unreal.
BA: Like your Rocky Balboa moment when he’s running up
those stairs in Philly. I feel you.
RE: Yeah, that’s exactly it.
BA: And last question, what’s gonna happen on Saturday
RE: That’s a hard question you ask me. I
always try to say something savvy, try to say something cool, try
to say something that makes me seem a certain way. But to be
honest, I don’t really know.
I believe that Chael , he’s a great fighter. I know what
Chael is gona do. He’s gonna put the pressure on, he’s
not gonna allow me to have one second to get any air or movement.
I’m willing to accept that kind of fight, but I’m not
gonna let him take that fight to me. I’m gonna go out there
and be in his face, I’m gonna go out there and be aggressive.
I’m gonna go out there and be a bully. Whatever that amounts
to, it amounts to, but I’ll tell you right now what
I’ve been training to do – I’ve been training to
knock him the f*ck out.