by Jeff Cain – MMAWeekly.com
Wednesday night’s episode of The Ultimate Fighter has been highly promoted and is expected to set records in viewership of the Spike TV reality show. In what is being billed as the biggest fight in The Ultimate Fighter history, former International Fight League heavyweight titleholder Roy Nelson pits his experience and skill against street fighting legend Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson.
TUF 10 coach Rashad Evans put the fight together the first opportunity he could, and spoke with MMAWeekly.com about why and his impressions of Kimbo.
He had his reasons for putting Roy Nelson against Kimbo, but why he picked them the first chance he had was more about mind games with opposing coach Quinton “Rampage” Jackson than going after Kimbo.
“People ask me, why did I pick Kimbo. I wasn’t really picking Kimbo. ‘He’s the star of the show, maybe you shouldn’t have picked Kimbo.’ I didn’t even think about it like that,” said the former UFC light heavyweight titleholder. “I was just like, you know what? Rampage picked my number one guy. I’m going to pick his number one guy.”
Evans said his team sat down and evaluated each match-up and felt that Nelson was the best fighter to go against Kimbo. Nelson told MMAWeekly.com last week that he would have rather fought someone else in his first bout.
“I think the decision to put Roy in there with Kimbo instead of anybody else was, everybody wanted to fight Kimbo, but I think they would have got caught up in the mystique of Kimbo. I was like Roy is probably the only one here with enough big fight experience to fight a guy like Kimbo and not get in their head about I’m fighting Kimbo Slice,” said Evans.
“I thought Roy was the best guy for the job because Roy brings that big fight experience, and Roy, he’s great at everything Kimbo’s not good at. I thought that was the most important thing in our decision.”
Evans was not impressed with Kimbo during the evaluation process, but knows now that he may not have been showing his hand, knowing he was going to be picked first by Jackson.
“During the evaluations I thought he was like sandbagging, or just not really that good,” said the 30-year-old former UFC champion. “I was kind of surprised at the fact that he didn’t really have a good showing at the evaluations. I was like, he has to be sandbagging.
“Now I watched and heard Rampage say just take it easy because you’re going to be on my team,” he said. “That’s probably why he was sandbagging because he knew he was going to be on Rampage’s team.
“I was like, that’s why when I was watching this guy spar, I was like this dude is sorry,” added Evans. “I had him picked number 14. That’s how unimpressed I was with how he did at evaluations. Judging based on talent with everyone else there, I was like, you know what? He’s the fourteenth best guy here.”
Regardless what happened against Nelson, win or lose, Evans admires Kimbo for his decision to join The Ultimate Fighter 10 cast.
“I have a ton of respect for Kimbo for even going in there and putting himself in the position he did because, you know what, he didn’t have to do that,” Evans told MMAWeekly.com. “He could have just continued to fight for whatever promotion. He could fight anywhere. The guy can fight anywhere, any promotion, any time. I thought it was pretty big of him to put himself in a position where he’s out of his comfort zone, big time, and he ended up fighting with a bunch of guys that wanted to destroy him.
“That’s tough to do. I don’t know a lot of people who would do that at all. My hat is off to him for even doing that in the first place.”