ATLANTA, GA - FEBRUARY 16: Fighter Rashad Evans speaks during a press conference promoting UFC 145: Jones v Evans at Philips Arena on February 16, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans gets his chance to get his title back on April 21st at UFC 145, but he'll have to go through former training partner Jon Jones to get it. In the second of a series of blogs on Yahoo Sports, Rashad discusses his long layoff last year due to injury and how hard it was on him:
But the time off wasn’t a good time for me, I can’t say it was. The frustration of being the No. 1 contender since May 2010 and seeing other fighters – including the guy I beat (Rampage Jackson) – getting opportunities when I earned my title shot was pretty bad. It was frustrating. Very frustrating.
I had a very hard time in my personal life too, going through a divorce, so I was having things not go my way professionally and personally at the same time. My injury wasn’t healing like I wanted it to, and it wasn’t a great time. But during that time I learned the true strength I have as a fighter and a person.
I never felt sorry for myself, I never threw tantrum or was like, "Why me? Why all at once?" I realized I had a lot going for me in life. I realized I’d had a lot of luck and opportunities, and a lot of guys out there have it far, far worse. Yeah, I didn’t have exactly what I wanted in life right there, right then, but as soon as I got fit I’d had every opportunity to get my belt.
He also briefly discusses his former coach Greg Jackson and his new team in Florida, Imperial Athletics, before moving onto Jones:
Yeah, Jon has gotten better since he was that skinny kid in the gym I used to spar. But he’s not changed as a fighter. He’s improved, but he’s still the same fighter and just as importantly, he’s the same kid who has had it all his own way and thinks he is the best thing since Muhammad Ali.
When it comes down to it, I’m already sick of talking and thinking about him. There’s a lot of emotions involved with this fight, which is motivation in training but also it is something that can drain your mental energy.
I’ve been through these fights before. Michael Bisping and I went at it and the (smack talk) got so back we nearly fought at the weigh-ins. And I went back and forth with Rampage for months, talking smack and making it personal … so I know how to play this game. I don’t think Jon does. We did a TV show in Atlanta, and he was very uncomfortable in his own skin. He knows what I know about him. He knows.
On April 21, the whole world will know, too.
Does Rashad have a mental edge because he knows how to "play the game"? I firmly believe that the mental part of fighting is absolutely vital for success, but I'm not so sure that some smack talk is going to give him an advantage in the cage. As he said though, we'll find out on April 21st in Atlanta. You can catch his first blog here, by the way.