At 35 years old and struggling with a ravaged knee, the clock is ticking for championship hopeful Rashad Evans. Since his commanding first round thrashing of Chael Sonnen at UFC 167 in 2013, the captaining Blackzillian has been sidelined from combat for approximately two-years.
"Suga's" anguishing long-term absence from the mixed martial arts sphere has taken its toll on the 205lb'er. Evans revealed to MMA Junkie his frustration with the plethora of injury complications hindering his efforts in the gym:
"This has probably been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my entire career – just to sit out, not being able to do too much, not to do what I love to do when I’m in the gym all the time," Evans told MMAjunkie. "I’m watching my teammates go, and they’re fighting. Naturally, you feel – once you’ve been doing the sport this long – that eventually it’s going to be my turn. And it’s not my turn yet. It’s just hard to sit back and watch the whole MMA game pass you by."
Despite the misery accompanied with a torn ACL, the former Greg Jackson pupil uses his coaching expertise on fellow Blackzillian members to numb the pain of prize-fighting absence:
"I do like to be here even though I can’t spar; I like to be here with the team," Evans said. "I like to give the guys some pointers when I see it. I love to coach. If I can’t fight, then I’ll coach. Being in here with the guys is as close as I can get to it now."
Albeit the Floridian's cravings for Octagon combat, the NCAA division 1 wrestling powerhouse projects into the future and discuses his professional options once the curtain closes on his MMA sporting career:
"This whole experience has definitely had me thinking about what it’s going to be like when it’s over or what’s next in my life," Evans said. "You can’t fight forever. And, when you’re young – 10 years ago, I never foreseen this coming. I knew it was going to end. I knew it was going to be over. I just didn’t know what the end would be and what it would entail. I’m far from over right now, but this is just a glimpse into my future. When I can’t fight, what’s next for me? Do I just go and have a normal life? Do I coach some guys? What do I do? It’s definitely raised some interesting questions and opened my mind to a lot of different thoughts I didn’t have before."
ACL trauma has proven to be the Achilles Heel of many mixed martial arts competitors. Sporting ambassadors - Shogun Rua, Georges St-Pierre and Dominick Cruz are just a few of the athletes familiar with the trials and tribulations of impaired knees. Troubling injuries are not necessarily a guarantee of declined ability, however, as ascending talents such as Conor McGregor have returned to the arena more refined than ever. Evans is just as optimistic, anticipating a comeback in September:
"I want to fight in September," Evans said. "I want to fight around my birthday, Sept. 25. I think that I should be ready by then. I’m three months into my recovery right now, and it feels pretty good.
"I don’t want to rush anything because I don’t want to take a chance and hurt myself again. But, at the same time, I am looking forward to going back out there and competing by September."
Evans' ought to keep a keen eye on the Daniel Cormier/Ryan Bader clash on June 6. If the former champ wants to make another run at the title, "Suga" should be aspiring to compete with the emerging victor of UFC Fight Night's headlining combatants.
(Transcripts via MMAJunkie)