FOX Sports Exclusive
Rashad: Jones ‘felt a loss’ in last win
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 Lewis.
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, 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 experiences?
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 Jon Jones?
RE: In what respect, you mean? As far as them winning?
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 why?
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 sometimes.
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 relationship?
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 something.
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 lobby.
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 did.
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 night?
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.