Note: This interview was conducted two days prior to Phil Davis being pulled from the fight at UFC 133.
I had the opportunity to talk with Rashad Evans while I was the Editor-in-Chief (thanks Snowden) of HeadKickLegend.com. We touch upon his fight with Phil Davis but I was more interested in his mindset after the split with Greg Jackson. We talk about the new team which has become known as the Blackzilians as well as if there is a chance he'd return to Grudge to work with Trevor Wittman again. He also discusses the fight between Rampage and Jon Jones.
Matthew: How are you doing Rashad?
Rashad: Good, how you doing brother?
Matthew: I'm doing pretty good man, hows training going for the fight at UFC 133 with Phil Davis?
Rashad: Training's going good man, can't be happier. My coaches put together a good training program. My training partners as well, they've just been stepping up big time helping me alot.
Matthew: Awesome, good to hear. You've had a little bit of a tumultuous year so far, you made the change from Albuqueque to Boca Raton, how do you like living in Florida versus New Mexico?
Rashad: Living in Florida versus New Mexico, there's no comparison. I love it out here and I don't mean it's because of the great weather most of the time and stuff like that. It's just good people. I like the people out here too as well and I've got great training partners. I'm very happy with where I'm at.
Matthew: One of your coaches is Mike Van Arsdale, he was working with you at Jackson's. Did he make the move with you or was his split separate?
Rashad: Yeah he made the move. Mike Van Arsdale has been my personal coach for the last two fights and before that, he's been with me since my Jason Lambert fight with the exception of my Forrest Griffin and Machida fights. He's been with me for a long time, we used to be training partners on the same team together at Jackson's when I first started out over there. We've got a lot of history together and when it comes to coaching, he's one of those guys that knows how to motivate me, talk to me, and get me to make sure I do what I need to do to step up. He knows what level I can compete at.
Matthew: This Phil Davis fight, I've been checking your twitter and you seem to be in a really good spot. You've been joking around with him, there doesn't seem to be much heat. What do you think of Phil Davis and what do you think is going to be the difference maker for you in the fight?
Rashad: I like Phil Davis as a person. I think he's a great guy as a person, you know what I'm saying? But I think the difference between us is just being able to put together the skills and tools that we have and make it flow. I think his last few fights, he's had a little bit of a problem making it all flow. I'm planning on showing him how to use them.
Matthew: Alright, so Authentic Management/Imperial, you guys have had a lot of great fights lately. You had Michael Johnson annihilate at UFC on Versus and then Melvin Guillard just beat up Shane Roller. Talking about Johnson, you seem to be in a mentor role with him, how do you see his improvements since he was on The Ultimate Fighter?
Rashad: Aw Michael Johnson, he really made me proud. When he came here, he wasn't really polished off. Just watching his growth within the last six to eight weeks was just remarkable. I joke around and call him my son, but you know what? He is my son. He's gotten so much better as a fighter. He believed in the program and he followed every step of it and he did the steps that he needed to do to get the win. It's a big inspiration watching him fight like that.
Matthew: Now as far as Melvin, you guys were cast mates on the second season of The Ultimate Fighter. You've known him for close to six years. How do you see him improving as a fighter and also maturing as a man? Have you noticed that in your friendship with him?
Rashad: Yeah, I definitely noticed Melvin's maturity. That's one of the things about him. Melvin has always had talent. He always had that natural power. I remember being on the reality show and Rich Franklin put up 315 on the bench and he was doing reps with it and Melvin Guillard just came in the gym, totally cold, and busted out 10 reps of it. That's how he warmed up. I was like "daaaaaaaaaaaang this dude's got power". It's natural for Melvin. I think now he's in a position where he's believing in himself a lot more and that sort of belief with the mindset that he has is just propelling him at an outstanding level.
Matthew: As far as your career, you've pretty much cemented yourself at the top of the Light Heavyweight division. Do you look at yourself and say "I've really come far since that reality TV show"?
Rashad: Sometimes I get a glimpse of my progress. For the most part I don't look at that and think about it too much. That's something for me to do after I finish my career or when I'm done with my career. I don't want to be satisfied. I never want to be satisfied from where I am and I think that looking back is a satisfactory mentality. I always want to stay hungry so I never want to think about that.
Matthew: The upcoming title fight between Quinton Jackson and Jon Jones, it seems like you've kind of picked the person you want to win, which is Rampage. You offered to help him out. Was a lot of that just joking around on twitter or were you serious that you really would help out Rampage to beat Jon Jones?
Rashad: Yeah, I'd definitely help him out. Even though I don't like Rampage I'd still like to see him smash up Jon. If I don't get a chance to fight him then I'd like to see someone smash him. Right now he thinks he's invincible and I'd love to see Rampage smash him up.
Matthew: Who is your prediction in that fight?
Rashad: I think that Rampage has some fundamental, simple, flaws in his game that he won't make it past Jon with those flaws. His footwork is just absolutely atrocious and his boxing has gotten worse and he's just doesn't seem to fight like how he used to. I think that's a lot to do with his mentality and a lot to do with how he's motivated himself to get some serious training. I think he lacks coaches that can make him respect the fact that he's going in there against guys at such a high level.
Matthew: You've worked with MMA Live quite a bit, is that something that interests you, going into the commentary role once your MMA career is over?
Rashad: Yeah I like to break down and watch the fights. You can only fight for so long but I want to stay close to the fight and the fight game. I really enjoy that part. You get that little rush right before you go on the air and find the words in your mind so you don't sound like an idiot. You want to come out smooth and it's such a rush when you end up doing it. It's something that's challenging and I want to do. It'll keep me close to the sport and it's definitely something I want to keep on doing.
Matthew: As far as the sport goes, are you a fan of the sport? Do you watch all the fights or is it a job for you?
Rashad: Nah, I'm a huge fan of the sport. I'm buying the pay per views, I'm looking online to see the background of every card that's happening. I do it for my job as an analyst and I also like it because it adds that much more to it when I watch the show. When I'm watching the show and it's built up a back story, it makes the fights that much more fun to watch.
Matthew: When you made the change over to Imperial, you were you training mostly at Grudge. Is the door still open to train with Trevor Wittman again?
Rashad: Yeah, the door is open to train with Trevor. I have a lot of love for Trevor and respect for Trevor. He's done so much for me and my career. I really cherish that relationship. First, for training, why I chose to come here is because of their affiliation with Greg Jackson's camp. I never wanted to make any of the guys on the team feel like they had to choose. I didn't want to make anyone choose which side to be on. A lot of the guys train at both gyms so they'd go from Denver to Jackson's and I never wanted myself or Jon to feel like "oh, someone is spying on me" because I know I can whup Jon and I don't need anyone to tell me about him. I know exactly what to do against him.
Matthew: I guess the last question would be, you're fighting Phil Davis at 133. You see a fight like Dominick Cruz vs Urijah Faber at 132. It was an absolute classic. An instant classic. In your mind, do you say "I want to one up those guys"?
Rashad: Yeah, you gotta always try and one up the fight before you. I was just saying on twitter after seeing the last card which was absolutely amazing that I gotta go in there and put on a good show. You watch a performance like the last card and it's like "man, that was something special." I want to go out there and be a part of a card that everyone is talking about in weeks to come.
Matthew: I appreciate your time and good luck at UFC 133.
Rashad: Thanks. I also want to give a shout out to Authentic Sports Management and the Blackzilians.