Daniel Cormier, Rashad Evans thrive on TV and in the Octagon
It’s a common transition for many professional athletes to go from the field or court directly onto television for commentary or analyst work across any of the major sports all over the world.
Rarely, however, do many athletes do it while still at the peak of their careers. But light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier and former champion Rashad Evans are both fixtures during UFC broadcasts on FOX and will also co-headline UFC 192 on Saturday night from Houston.
Cormier is actually the co-host for "UFC Tonight," but he’s thrived as a fighter while also doing the show and actually became champion after he had been a regular on the news program for several months. It might seem like a distraction for some athletes, but according to Cormier’s short-term replacement while he was in the final weeks of training, doing television work can actually benefit a fighter’s camp in the long run.
"To be honest, I was talking about this the other day — it’s not something that’s a distraction with my training," Michael Bisping told FOX Sports recently. "It’s not something that’s an issue at all. I think for the most part people involved in mixed martial arts probably over-train. I know I have in the past and I know I still do and by doing this, this forces me to sometimes only have one training session as opposed to two.
"So I’m obviously very grateful for the platform because it gives me the opportunity to start working on my post-fight career. It’s something that I’m very conscious that I can do while I’m still in the spotlight, and I need to exploit every opportunity that I can. It’s certainly not a distraction to what I do in fighting."
Bisping said it’s pretty amazing to see what Cormier has done, because the two-time Olympian transitioned effortlessly from the cage to the broadcast booth and back again while also becoming world champion.
Being a champion is something Bisping aspires to, so seeing Cormier make a secondary career for himself after fighting is over while also being ranked as the best fighter in the world in his weight class is awe-inspiring.
"Daniel Cormier is the perfect example. He’s now the champion of the world, and I know he has a busier schedule than I do," Bisping said.
"I think it’s a healthy distraction. It takes your mind off the fight a little bit."
For Rashad Evans, doing TV work over the last two years was not only a great way to make a second income while he was out of the sport dealing with injuries, but it also kept him relevant and in the spotlight with a constant presence on UFC programming.
Former UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz has joined Evans as a top analyst covering the sport on TV and while he was going through a similar situation with multiple knee injuries costing him more than three years of his career, doing commentary and staying on air has given him a platform to be seen and heard even if he’s not competing in the Octagon.
"For sure, it’s kept my career alive. No question about it," Cruz said. "Not everybody can get thrown on TV, and I think that’s the biggest misconception. Fans watch certain fighters on FOX and think they are given that because the UFC likes them. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
"It’s a matter of doing the homework, understanding the game, studying and then you’ve got to take all those skills from fighting and transform them into a skill that none of us have going into the sport. I put a championship mindset towards it. DC’s done the same thing and Rashad’s done the same thing. It’s a blessing for sure. Without all that TV time, people wouldn’t be worried about what’s going on with us."
Bisping knows all too well how fighters are judged almost exclusively on what they’ve done lately, and when you’ve been out of the spotlight for two years like Evans has been, it makes it even tougher.
Being on TV gives these fighters a chance to speak their minds on a number of subjects in the sport while also staying visible week to week when their next fight might not be for several months.
"You’re only as good as your last fight. Whether or not if that fight was good or bad, two years is a long time," Bisping said. "The fans of this sport are very fickle. Two years ago, nobody knew who Conor McGregor was — now he’s on top of the sport. That’s how quickly things change.
"I think the good thing about doing what we do, yes of course it keeps you relevant, it keeps you in the public eye, but it also keeps you hungry. Because you have to pay such close attention to this sport and you’re constantly reminded of the risks and the rewards and if you are a competitor that will just make you want it that much more. Being around this sport as much as possible if you are a competitor is the best thing that you can do."
For Evans, being on TV not only provided him a platform while he was injured, but it also helped form a friendship with Cruz while the two fighters were going through similar situations. There were points over the past two years where Evans admits he contemplated retirement, but being on set with Cruz as both fighters continued to scratch and claw their way back to the Octagon was a great way to stay positive and motivated.
"Dominick is a good friend of mine and he had his ways of doing it and we were both in similar situations, but just having him around and us being so close working together, we definitely swapped ideas and different rehab techniques. I definitely followed his lead because no matter what happened, he stayed and remained positive so I had to do the same," Evans told FOX Sports.
Cruz said even as he works in the booth this weekend for UFC 192, he’s quietly excited to see Evans back in action after watching him struggle and eventually triumph as he worked to return to the Octagon.
"That’s one of the reasons I feel so excited to watch Rashad, because he’s gone through some of the same things I have, not exactly the same, but similar. He’s had a lot of tribulations hit him in the last few years all at once," Cruz said. "Not just injuries, but things in life. Our outside life influences our fight life because fighting is 80 percent mental, and if you’re having issues outside of fighting, no matter what they are, it affects your fighting.
"It’s been a good friendship to have, for sure."