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The Thinking Man's Fighter - Rashad Evans

Rashad Evans speaks about respect, being a role model, and "embracing the suffering"...

“I just really love to fight. I’ve always been a fighter, but I fell in love with the sport after I graduated from college. I met some guys who were doing it, and ever since then I’ve been in love with it.”

“I surprised a lot of people, including (UFC President) Dana White. A lot of people thought that I didn’t have any talent at all. See, I always had confidence in myself, but the better I did, people would say ‘wow’ and they just couldn’t believe it. I knew my own potential, but they didn’t know, so it was a big surprise to them.”

“My mindset is, I’m gonna try to go where my opponent doesn’t want to go – we’ll see who can suffer the longest. That’s basically it, and if he can outlast me in suffering, then he wins the fight. But it’s a mindset to drive yourself to suffer. My wrestling coaches used to call it mental toughness. They would dog us out in practice and make us do things that we possibly couldn’t do, but they made us feel like we had to do it. They’d say ‘mental toughness, mental toughness’ and you learn to like the suffering - you learn to welcome that feeling when it comes. A lot of people run from it because they want to start feeling okay again, but when you embrace the suffering, you just ride it out, and pretty soon, you’ve outlasted your opponent.”

“I definitely think people sleep on me. They don’t quite understand how I do the things that I do – some people respect it, but they don’t understand it. They say, ‘I don’t see how this kid can win, I don’t see what he does that people haven’t beat him yet.’ And they’ve counted me out many times, and they continue to sleep on me. I don’t know what I have to do to break out of it, but I’m not gonna worry about it anymore. I’m just gonna do me and just let my work speak for itself.”

“I’m very comfortable with the fact that I bring an African-American face to the UFC. It’s excellent if black kids, or any kids for that matter, see me and are inspired by what I do. I’m very excited to be a good representative for black people and a good role model in general. I enjoy it because I know it’s not gonna be around forever and who knows how long it can last. I know everybody doesn’t always have this chance to experience this, so I feel like I’m experiencing a once in a lifetime thing and I’m just enjoying it as long as I can.”

“I think it’s kinda messed up that sometimes I’m just passed over, but that’s what I call soul food. It’s food for my soul and it helps me grow to be stronger than I normally would if everyone else had been behind me the whole time. But I definitely believe that if I keep going in there and showing people what’s inside of me – what I can do and what I’m capable of doing – it will definitely let them say ‘wow, I was wrong about him.’”

“To lose is a very humbling experience. You’ve got to break yourself back down to see what happened, and ultimately you just try to move forward. When I was younger I would cry and get upset, but as I got older and matured, I understood what it meant to lose and I got a better handle on it. I said ‘okay, I lost, this is why I lost, and I’m never gonna let that happen again.’”

“Sometimes when you’re down in a fight, you just gotta say ‘I’m gonna go for broke and whatever happens happens. If he’s able to withstand this or dominate me in any fashion, then he’s the better man this night.’ But you know what, he’s gonna feel me. That’s my biggest thing; when I’m down and out, he’s gonna feel me. And then from there it just comes together.”

“I’ve always said that I wanted to be the best and that I wanted to leave my mark in this sport. The only way you can do that is by facing the best. I’m not a fighter who wants to fill himself with false hope that I’m something that I’m not. I think I’m the best, so I’m gonna go out there, fight the best, and test myself.”

“There was no pressure to take him down. I was confident enough in my standup that we could go blow for blow and I was not gonna be afraid to take a hit from him and just do it. You hear people talk about his punching power, and you try not to let it really resonate in your mind because the last thing you want to be doing is going out there afraid of your opponent’s punch. Then you’ll be fighting a scared fight.”

“My intention when I threw the punch was to throw it as fast as I can. And I threw it, it went through, and I was gonna follow up with the left hook, but he was already going down. And after the left hook went by, I was like ‘oh no, he fell down. I’ve gotta hurry up and finish him.’ But it seemed like it took forever for me to come out of that left hook to turn around and get on him. It was so quiet in there, I could hear a pin drop. The fight was over, Herb Dean had stopped it, and I was in shock because everybody was so quiet.”

“I’m definitely able to enjoy the moment, and everybody’s so excited about it, but I try not to live in the moment. I don’t want this to be the only thing I’ve ever done when it comes to my career. I want this to be the beginning stage, where people start to really see my capabilities. I’m trying to walk a fine line – yeah, I enjoyed it and it was a good experience, but I’m not truly satisfied, because satisfaction is something you get once you’re ready to be done because you have fulfillment. If you don’t have that fulfillment, you’re always able to go on and reach new heights. And that’s what I want to do.”

“It feels like it was a long journey, but it’s a wonderful thing and it feels great. I can’t go ahead and make it too big of a thing though. It has to be just another fight for me. And that’s how I’m gonna approach it. I’d love to be a title holder, and whether I go out there and win this time or not, I’m gonna be a title holder. It’s a matter of not putting too much pressure on myself, enjoying the moment, and going out there and trying to have fun with it.”

“Even when I won the belt, it was a strange feeling because I thought that I would have that euphoric feeling – like you see people dropping to the ground and crying, they’re so super excited, and I didn’t feel that. It was strange and I’m kinda disappointed because I didn’t genuinely feel like that. It just felt like another fight. I’m very proud that I’ve achieved what I have, but at the same time, I didn’t feel anything different. I thought that by winning the belt I’d have super powers or something. (Laughs) But nothing happened – I didn’t gain any special knowledge or anything.”

“In my mind, I say ‘there’s no way that I’m losing this fight. No matter how bad I’m feeling, I’m just thinking the whole time that I’m in a fight and getting pushed that ‘I’m not losing, I’m not losing.’ I just say that over and over to myself. When things are getting hard or I’m fading out, I just say that and it works out.”

“There is a fine line and you can’t be all in your head. You can’t be so in your head that you’re thinking ‘oh, what if this don’t happen, what if this happens?’ You have to let go and relax enough to take some chances. When you’re so much in your head that you’re worried about winning and losing, you don’t pull the trigger sometimes when you should because you’re thinking ‘well, what if I get caught?’”

“I always keep in my mindset, no matter what, that I am the underdog. And being the underdog comes more from a training perspective than as how others view you, because if you train as if you are the underdog, then you’re doing the little things. You’re doing the stuff when you don’t feel like doing it and that’s what being the underdog really means. Because when somebody says you’re the underdog, it’s more a motivational factor to say ‘oh yeah? I’m gonna show them. Let me go do this extra work or make sure I do this a little bit better.’ As long as you take that mentality of doing that extra work or doing the things that you feel that you need to get to that next level, then I think you can still fight from that position.”

“In this game, you’re always one fight away from your last fight. Each and every time I go to training camp, I train as if it’s my last fight because one of these times it very well may be, and who knows if this is gonna be the last time. So I enjoy myself the whole way.”

I think sometimes that once the fans have their mind made up about you, that’s it, and I think a lot of it comes from that Matt Hughes thing (during season two of The Ultimate Fighter), where he said I was cocky and that I like to showboat, and I think that stigma has followed me. No matter what I do, they see my personality as concrete, and there’s no changing it for a lot of people. A lot of people are very lazy with their opinions, and once their mind is made up one way, they either refuse or it’s very hard for them to go another way. But I take the good with the bad, and the good thing is this – I’ve never met a fan that didn’t like me.”

“Even though I was winning, I was losing all along, and the reason I say that is because the way I was winning was not really my fighting style. It’s good to be able to mix it up and be able to exchange and go toe-to-toe with anybody, but at the same time, you should never get away from your base and what you are. If you do, it’s just a matter of time before you get found out and you lose. I’m a wrestler for the most part; why am I trying to extend my game to go way past where I feel comfortable and where I can excel?”

“Coming back you always have questions, questions about your ability to fight still and about the things that led up to you losing. So I had a lot of those questions answered (against Thiago Silva) and it was positive because I felt like I just had a bad night (against Lyoto Machida). And that may happen in this sport, but I was able to move on and move forward, and by having that fight I was able to get a lot of those things out of the way. Going back to the same exact Octagon that I got knocked out in, in the same exact place, same exact everything, it was kinda like I had a lot to overcome but if I overcame it, I should be ready for anything.”

“I want fans to get that feeling you get when you’re on the edge of your seat, you can’t quite get up, and you’ve got the butterflies in your stomach, and you’re not even out there. I want them to feel that, I want them to feel the passion from watching me fight. That’s the most exciting thing I think we, as fighters, or anybody in the entertainment industry, can give to the fans. That feeling that they are there.”