Rashad Evans is looking for his title shot. More specifically, Rashad Evans is looking to find out when his title shot will be taking place exactly.
After a win over Quinton “Rampage” Jackson in May, Evans was promised a shot at the UFC light heavyweight title now held by Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. When the Brazilian was forced out of action with a knee injury followed by surgery, instead of taking another fight, Evans opted to wait for his chance to face Rua for the belt.
Now several months later, Rua is still on the mend, but Evans is starting to grow impatient with the ever changing status of the champion’s return date. The situation seemed to hit a fever pitch recently when the former “Ultimate Fighter” made comments to ESPN.com about the wait, culminating in a response by UFC president Dana White.
Evans spoke exclusively with MMAWeekly.com to help clear the air about the ordeal that broke out and continued on his Twitter account on Monday.
“The whole thing started was just that ever since Shogun’s been out there’s been talk when he’s coming back and at first I was going to wait for him, but then they said he won’t be ready until like the first of the year. I’m like ‘okay, I’ll wait.’ Then they go he won’t be ready until March. Then Dana went on MMA Live and said he won’t be ready until May. I’m like ‘okay,’ and then I heard just the other day he’s not even at the doctor’s yet. He probably won’t be better until like after June,” Evans explained.
“So I’m just kind of like, for me, I was just really frustrated because I didn’t understand is he not going to fight? Does he not want me to fight for the belt? I was kind of like in limbo.”
Sitting and waiting are hard jobs for any fighter, but with the ultimate payoff being a shot at the UFC light heavyweight title, Evans believed the reward was worth the time off. While he still plans on waiting for Rua to return, he mostly just wants an idea of when that might be.
“If I could just get an idea of when he might be coming back, it’s all good, because I chose to wait,” said Evans. “But when it’s all these different dates thrown around it was just kind of confusing, like what the (expletive) is it going to be? Am I just not going to fight for the belt? That’s where that whole thing was coming from.
“I was just frustrated because I didn’t have any idea of when I should start getting ready for the fight. If I got a title fight, the least I can do is know kind of when I should start training for the fight.”
Evans believes that he earned the title shot and was willing to wait for Rua until he is healed up. He also believes that he has to take the calculated risk of time off with the reward being a shot at the belt, as opposed to staying active to take a different fight with the chance of an outcome that knocks him out of the top contender’s spot.
“I want to fight for the belt and that’s my main goal,” Evans commented. “I was blessed to get two opportunities and you never know when those opportunities are going to stop coming. I mean Chuck Liddell, he never thought when he lost it would be so hard to get a title back again, so you never want to take those opportunities for granted. I’m not getting any younger, so I take the opportunities very serious.”
After the news of Rua’s injury hit the wire, Evans was offered a chance at a bout for the upcoming UFC 123 show in Detroit against former Pride fighter Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, but when he thought about it, the fight just didn’t make sense.
“After I just beat Rampage and I get the title shot, and Shogun was going to be out at the time I thought till this January cause he got the surgery in June. They said to me ‘would you want to fight Li’l Nog underneath Rampage and Machida, and I’m like ‘first of all, why would I want to fight Lil’ Nog if I’ve got a belt? And second of all, why would I want to fight him underneath Rampage and Machida?’” Evans explained.
“Nothing against those guys, Machida beat me, and Rampage we had a good fight, but at the same time if I’m supposed to be the No. 2 contender, why would I fight on the card underneath those two?”
A fight between Evans and Machida intrigued the former champion, but he also knows the UFC didn’t want to eliminate a contender if the two light heavyweights battled again. So Evans remained on the sidelines and Machida drew his upcoming fight with Jackson.
The other major issue Evans had was a reaction to UFC president Dana White’s comments about the former Michigan State wrestler turning down a fight because he didn’t want to “harm his brand.”
“When I talk to Dana, I speak pretty frankly to him and I was just like ‘Dana, I’m just trying to make smart decisions that I need to make. I’ve got to look out for myself and I’ve got to look out for what I’m trying to do. I’ve got to look out for a brand I’m trying to create. You’re trying to look out for your brand, I’m trying to look out for my brand.’ That’s how the whole ‘brand’ got into the whole discussion in the first place,” Evans said.
It finally came down to simply making a smart business decision as opposed to letting ego or machismo get involved.
“I understand that Dana White is our boss and he has a business to run, but I’ve got a business to run too, and it doesn’t always meet eye to eye,” said Evans. “People are like ‘oh what do you mean you’ve got a business to run, you’re just a fighter?’ But at the same time, when people are making money off you and you’re making money fighting, it’s a business. You’ve got to make the right decisions for your business and most of the time when you make those decisions, you’ve really got to take balls out of it.
“When I go in there and I fight, I go in there and fight with my balls, but when I make a decision about who I fight and when I fight and everything else like that, I’m going to use my head because I already proved that I’m tough. I’ve been fighting for a long time and most of the time when I was fighting to prove that I was tough, it was mostly in the street, but I don’t need to prove that I’m tough anymore. I already know that I’m tough.”
It’s that business acumen that Evans relies on now to make smart choices for his career, whether it’s taking a fight now or waiting for a shot at the championship against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. For Evans it’s about the big picture, not the narrow view.
“I know I can go in there and beat anybody,” he said. “Now I’ve got to see how I can make it, how can I use my ability to get ahead in life so I don’t ever have to punch nobody’s time clock. I can be independently, financially free for the rest of my life. But I have to use my head for the rest of my life to do that.”
Evans will continue his work alongside teammates in Denver and New Mexico, and at least as of Monday, the former champion believes he at least some idea of when he’ll face Rua in the cage.
“I learned something new from reading that article. I learned it was scheduled for March, which I had no idea it was scheduled for March. So good thing I did do that because I may have scheduled myself for something and never do it because I’ll be fighting,” stated Evans.
If the timing is correct and Rua is healthy, Evans will be able to plan his 2011 ahead of time with a title shot looming for March of next year.