Rashad Evans was heavily criticized when he decided to sit and wait for a UFC light heavyweight title shot against then-champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua only to have it fall apart when he had to drop out of the bout due to injury.
He then received scathing glances again when he opted not to wait for a shot at current champion Jon “Bones” Jones. He instead decided to face up-and-comer Phil Davis at UFC 133, only to have Davis drop out of the fight with an injury.
After several dead ends, UFC brass found a last-minute replacement in the recently resurgent Tito Ortiz, so Evans will still remain the headliner for the Philly fight card. The UFC initially thought Lyoto Machida would take the fight, but that fell apart when they couldn’t agree to financial terms. Ortiz initially turned down the fight, but changed his mind and later agreed to the bout.
Evans’ decision to go ahead and fight leaves him in a solid position to still get in the title picture. UFC president Dana White on Thursday declared that the former UFC light heavyweight champion will get a chance to earn his belt back if he defeats Ortiz.
The belt in question is on the line at UFC 135 on Sept. 24 in Denver when Jones tries to defend it against another former champion in Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. Evans gets the winner of that fight if he is successful at UFC 133.
White added that a win for Ortiz would put him in the top three contenders, but wouldn’t mean an immediate title shot. Although he defeated Ryan Bader at UFC 132, and a win over Evans would greatly increase his viability, Ortiz is still trying to shed the baggage of four losses and a draw with Evans in his prior five fights.
Regardless of who wins the UFC 135 title bout, if Evans wins at UFC 133, it sets up a compelling match-up. Jones is Evans’ younger former teammate and there has been no love lost between the two since Evans left Team Jackson/Winkeljohn. A fight with Rampage would be a rematch of their bout at UFC 114, where Evans won a unanimous decision.