UFC 161: Rashad Evans on how he ended up with Rocky 3 syndrome

Paul Abell-US PRESSWIRE

Former UFC light heavyweight champion, Rashad Evans discusses how he got Rocky 3 syndrome, the change in fan reception, training for Dan Henderson and how Jamie Foxx and Common have made a new alter ego for him.

Another fight week is in the books and another has begun. This Saturday, UFC 161 brings us the oh so appealing match-up of two former champions in Dan Henderson and Rashad Evans. This fight has crowd pleaser written all over it, and I can't wait to see how it unfolds. Both men are coming off disappointing losses, and will probably let it all hang out in the octagon, if not solely to entertain the masses, then surely to put their own careers back on the path to the title.

Evans, who feels that he has rediscovered his motivation to fight, has gone back to an old school, bare bones method of training, depending more on the use of good, old fashioned running, heavy bags and long training days. He equates it to going "Rocky style", and says that sometimes, the bells and whistles tend to get in the way, more as distractions than true training aids.

I had the opportunity to speak to Rashad with my co-host, Evan Shoman, on our latest MMA Sentinel show, this past week. Rashad spoke at length about getting back to a more basic training style, how he got Rocky 3 syndrome, his career motivation and how Jamie Foxx and Common both turned him into Rashad Lewis. Here's what he had to say in this great interview:

Rashad Lewis

I was hanging out with Jamie Foxx, and we were talking before he was going to go up and do his set, because he was hosting the club that night. We were kicking it, having a good conversation and everything. Once the club set started, he was giving shouts out to everybody, and then my moment comes.I'm on the couch right next to him , and he says, 'Yeah, I'd like to give a shoutout to my man in the building, RASHAD LEWIS!' I was like, 'Oh my God!' I felt so bad, but he wasn't the only one that got me.

Common got me too. I was at a birthday party, and the same thing happened. Me and him are talking, chopping it up, talking about being from Chicago, and he gets on the mic, and says, 'George, Lewis ... I'll beat your butt like, Rashad Lewis!', and then he points to me. I'm just like, 'Dang! Not again!' [laughs] Rashad Lewis is now my alter ego. If there had been a hole there, I would have jumped right into it. It's like, 'Oh, I'm almost cool. I'm somewhere in the ballpark of being cool.' [laughs]

Fan Reception

I've been in the UFC so dang long now. I've been in for so long, now people are just like [in a very affected voice], 'He's still around, and it looks like he's not going anywhere, so I guess I've got to cheer for him. I don't know. He finds a way to do it, he's not the most exciting, but he finds a way to do it. I guess I've got to find a way to cheer. He's not so bad after all.'

I think that's what I'm getting [laughs]. I'm getting more of the sympathetic cheers. 'Alright, I'll cheer for him.' It's all good, though. You know what? I'm starting to see a little correlation. When the fans used to boo me, I used to never lose, but now that people are cheering for me, I've lost two in a row. What the Hell is going on here?!

Training for Dan Henderson

I just got back on my grind again. One thing about the fight game, is that it's so easy to get caught up in the system. The thing about mixed martial arts is that everybody is always trying to get the edge. The latest and the greatest. The newest this, and the newest that. If you that, always with the newest and the latest and the greatest, you get away from everything that made you who you are. That's what happened to me.

I kind of got so caught up with trying this and trying that, and doing all these different, new things, and trying to expand my game, that I actually ended up shutting my game down. I just went back to the basics. I went old school Rocky. That's what I went back to. I was waking up early in the morning and getting my runs in, hitting the heavy bag in the garage, just old school stuff.

I don't need to have 10 people around me cheering for me when I'm hitting the mitts or have somebody get me water and wipe my face off. I don't need that. I'm a grinder. I've just got to get in there and grind. It's got to be ugly. I've got to go in there and look grizzly and just ugly. That's how I've got to get it done.

Revisiting His Hot Streak

You know, one thing I did from that time, is that I had one of the best striking coaches I've ever had, Mike Winkeljohn. Me and Mike had our routine. Every single punch, Mike was like, 'Oh man, that's gonna be the one', and we would do that one punch over and over again, at least 100 times. It gets in your mind, 'I can bang, and when I need to finish this, I'm gonna lay it out.' You develop that faith in your hands. It just comes down to being comfortable and getting back to what you're good at. I'm also a wrestler. If I'm not wrestling, then I'm probably not going to win the fight.

Blackzilian Striking Team

Henri has been amazing. He's just like Winkeljohn in that they have the same kickboxing mentality. Henri has that Dutch kickboxing style, so for him, everything is hard. You don't throw nothing soft. There's no setup shot. There's no light jab. Everything is super hard.

I've also been working a lot with Roberto Flamingo. He was in Alistair Overeem's camp and was out there with Tyrone Spong and those guys. Me and Roberto and Henri have been working to make sure that everything is with bad intentions. That's how it's got to go.

Kenny Monday

Kenny has been amazing. He's one of those guys who is a great leader. He knows how to talk to each one of us as athletes. He doesn't talk the same way to us all. He knows how to talk to us all as individuals. He challenges me, and he makes sure that I'm not cutting any corners. He calls me out on stuff. Just when I think practice is over, he's like, ' Nope, you've got jumps, and you've got this or that to do.'

I know it's not gonna be an easy day when I go into the gym to work with Kenny. Sometimes he;ll mess with me. I'll have my gym bag ready to go to the locker room to get cleaned up and change, and he'll say, 'Where you going? We're not done here.' You should see the look on my face. I just want to cry when he does that [laughs]. That wrestling mentality is sick. Anybody who has ever wrestled at that level or been on a wrestling team knows that you just go, go, go. There is no excuse. There is no 'I can't do it.' You just go and go. That's it.

Blackzilian Evolution

Now, our training mission is more about cultivating the mind. It's one thing to learn skills and learn all these great tools, but it's another thing to actually use them in a fight. It's another thing altogether to be able to go out there and just stick with the 1-2s, the jab cross hooks, the simple jabs, and going out there and being a machine. You know, kick, make kicks and just do everything hard, and with bad intentions.

It's the mentality that counts. We've got to remember that this is a fight. No matter how much I train with my guys in the gym, and how much they push me, it's ultimately up to me to go out there and bring that extra something. I'm going to have that grind inside me. I'm going to go out there kind of pissed off. I need to go out there with that same ferocious mentality that I had in practice. If someone is kicking my butt in a fight, or I eat a big shot, I'm not going out like that. I've got to fight. I've got to go out on my shield.

Machida Fight

I would be lying if I said that fight didn't affect me. That fight gave me nightmares for a long time. On so many levels I lost that fight before I even got there. I was wondering how that could have happened. I never even thought I could even be hurt in a fight, never mind losing one. It perplexed me. Can I not take a punch? All these different questions were going through my mind. I made the decision to move past it so I could continue to grow. I needed to get to what I should have done when I fought this guy in the first place, and grow from there. It's all about growing from experience and from the times that you have hiccups in your fights.

Career Motivation

I'm looking to just enjoy competing again. For the longest time, it's been so much about the hunt for the belt. Jon Jones this. Jon Jones that. The hunt for the belt this. The hunt for the belt that. If you look too far down the road, you really can't see what's directly in front of you. You can't see the scenery on the side of you, all around you, and you don't get a chance to take it all in, because you're too busy and too focused on looking way down the road.

I want to take it all in. I want to enjoy all of this, because I don't know how long God is going to bless me to continue to be able to fight. I'm blessed every, single day that I wake up and I'm able to get this rusty body up, that aches so much, to go train and push myself to the limits. I want to take some time and just enjoy it all.

That's what I tell myself when I get frustrated with things like media and press obligations that get overwhelming. I tell myself, 'You know what? This is all going to be over, and it's all going to be a memory.' I don't want to sit back and think, 'I wish I had enjoyed it more at the time.' Nothing lasts forever, and it's absolutely imperative that you take the time to really appreciate the things that you enjoy in life, because before you know it, they could be gone.

I couldn't agree with Mr. Evans more. I've always been a fan, but this interview just made me realize why I started following his career in the first place. Rashad gave a fantastic Mike Tyson impersonation at the end of the interview, which I've decided to upload for all our readers.

Rashad Evans Mike Tyson Impersonation

You can follow Rashad via his Twitter account, @SugaRashadEvans

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