by Jeff Cain – MMAWeekly.com
The thing about reality shows is you have some contestants who make it to the end on their own ability, some squeeze through the cracks or fly under the radar as they say, and some ride the coattails of others to advance. ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ (TUF) heavyweight finalist Rashad Evans took matters into his own hands, literally, and fought his way to the finals. Rashad spoke with MMAWeekly SoundOff Radio just 48 hours before the biggest fight of his career; the TUF 2 heavyweight final against Brad Imes.
Heading into the show with every intention of winning the UFC contract, did Rashad really think he’d make it to the finals? “There were times where I doubted I would make it that far. At times it just seemed like we had to go through so much. It was hard to see the end, but I just kept my head in the game and just did one fight at a time.” Evans told MMAWeekly.
Rashad faced elimination more than anyone else on the cast; three times. In week five he defeated Tom Murphy, dancing his way to victory and pissing Matt Hughes off in the process. In week nine Evans eliminated one of the favorites, Mike Whitehead. Rashad impressively took away Whitehead’s will to fight and secured a spot for himself in the semi-finals. In the semi-finals Evans executed his game plan perfectly and defeated another favorite, Keith Jardine, in a not so close split decision.
The clash of personalities between Rashad and opposing coach and UFC welterweight champion Matt Hughes was a reoccurring source of drama throughout season two of ‘The Ultimate Fighter.’ It was built up beginning with Hughes confronting Evans for his in fight antics during his bout with Tom Murphy and reached it’s dramatic climax when, decided by a coin toss, Hughes was to corner Rashad for his semi-finals match against Keith Jardine.
Evans was questioned about his feelings toward Matt Hughes now that the season is over. Rashad answered, “Matt was just straight forward and he told me he didn’t like my antics. It was just how they showed it on TV. Matt’s the kind of guy that if he don’t like something about you, or he’s got something to say to you he’ll say it…I was a little surprised. Obviously my ego and my feelings were hurt a little bit…After all of that me and him talked for awhile. He turned out to be alright. It’s just that he’s a hard character. He’s one of those guys that’s hard to figure out…We pretty cool right now.”
Brad Imes is an enormous human being. He’s 6′ 7, and tipped the scales at 250. Rashad Evans is 5′ 11, and weighed in at 224. How can Rashad overcome the overwhelming size difference in this fight? He said, “First thing I’ve got to do is I’ve got to keep him off me. I can’t let him make me carry his weight. That would be a big mistake on my part If I make me carry his weight. I’ve just got to stay active and stay moving. You know, make him feel his own weight.”
In his match with Mike Whitehead, Rashad injured his hand. Asked the status of his hand, Evans replied, “My hand is 100%. For awhile it was a little sore, but I just rested it for awhile after the show, took care of it. Now it feels 100%.”
Rashad Evans will have to overcome a considerable size and reach disadvantage to become the TUF 2 heavyweight winner, but he’s the odds on favorite going in. Both fighters are undefeated, but that will all change tonight.