Rashad Evans has been there, done that in the UFC’s light-heavyweight division.
What else would you expect of the 33-year-old veteran, who has been with the organization since November 2005 and has twice challenged for the title — winning it the first time over Forrest Griffin in December 2008 and coming up on the short end of a decision to Jon Jones just over nine months ago.
However there is actually one thing the former 205-pound champion hasn’t done with the organization before — fight on a Super Bowl weekend show in Las Vegas.
He will do that for the first time Saturday in the co-main event of UFC 156 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center when he takes on Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. And he’s looking forward to it.
“I’m excited, usually I come out to this card anyways and just watch,” Evans said in an interview with Sportsnet.ca. “It’s going to be exciting, I’ve been out here and felt the buzz and energy. It’s going to be fun to be a part of all that.”
There has been a lot of talk leading into this weekend about Evans, but it has mostly centred around what’s next for him, win or lose. Many have wondered if he will make a move down in weight class to 185 pounds.
A couple of reasons have sparked this discussion:
1. There isn’t much more for him to accomplish at light-heavyweight
2. There is a shortage of challengers for Anderson Silva at middleweight
Given this, many have asked if he would be interested in making the move and potentially getting a shot at the title held by Silva, who doesn’t currently have an opponent (even though UFC president Dana White said Thursday they are considering a matchup against Chris Weidman).
On a conference call last week, Evans said it would be quite a sacrifice — not just pre-fight but with his whole diet all year round — to cut his weight down, so he would only do it if it were an opportunity that would be worth the sacrifice.
“If it was a title shot, or against a really good, top contender or something like that where it’d be something that the people want to see then it’d be something I would think about,” said Evans, who added that his body naturally goes to 235 pounds when he’s not consistently training. “Why would I drop to 185 just to be in the same spot that I am at 205?”
More than just the toll such a move could take on his body, there is also the uncertainty of how he would perform at the new level.
“I’ve made my home at 205 and it’s hard for me to kind of just give up everything I’ve worked for at 205 and just try at 185 where it’s totally brand new,” Evans said. “Whether I’m fighting for the title or fighting against a guy who is next in line or a competitive fight, I’m still starting from scratch because it’s kind of unchartered territory.”
Whether this would give him extra motivation or not, shifting weight classes would present a new challenge for Evans. And he has never been one to shy away from that.
If, hypothetically, he were to beat Nogueira Saturday and the UFC offered him Silva for the middleweight title in his next bout, Evans said there would be “no hesitation.”
“Yeah, I would take that,” Evans said. “But first things first, I’d make sure I can make the weight. I’d have to have a pretty good idea that I’d be able to make the weight.”
You can bet that matchup would represent one the UFC would likely promote as another “super-fight” — coming on the heels of this weekend’s UFC 156 headliner pitting featherweight champion Jose Aldo against former lightweight title-holder Frankie Edgar.
But Evans still believes it would be more realistic for him to have a rematch with current light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones. That’s also the matchup he’s more interested in.
“Jon Jones has been running his mouth a little bit lately,” said Evans, whose first meeting with Jones at UFC 145 last April was fraught with bad blood between the two former training partners. “A rematch with Jon Jones would be something I would like because honestly speaking I don’t think the matchup with Anderson is something that he favours, and I don’t think it’s something he’d really want to be honest.”
Is Evans suggesting Silva is afraid of him?
“I wouldn’t say afraid but I mean there are easier guys to fight,” Evans clarified.
He wouldn’t say who those guys were (Weidman is certainly less accomplished than Evans).
But one thing he did insist was that he’s not the one looking beyond Saturday night.
“Sometimes when you go into your fights and everybody is looking past your opponent, it has a tendency to seep into your mind,” Evans said. “But as long as you make sure you make it fun and keep it light, it alleviates the pressure a lot of people are putting on you.
“I haven’t really looked past this fight, because I’ve done that before in the past … and it never really went the way I wanted it to or expected it to. So I just want to go with the flow of things and see what happens.”