by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
As James Irvin celebrated his eight-second win over Houston Alexander, while his highlight reel “superman” punch littered the ESPN Sportcenter Top 10 plays, little did he know that less than a month later he’d be asked to fill in for Chuck Liddell to face light heavyweight contender Rashad Evans.
“Actually, I think I had a beer in my hands and I was still celebrating from knocking out Houston Alexander,” said Irvin in an interview with MMAWeekly Radio on Thursday. “I didn’t even see it coming, but I think as soon as they told me, I dropped the beer and decided I wanted to go train again.”
He takes the fight with Evans very seriously and accepted the bout with the utmost respect towards his new opponent.
“I’m just so happy that he would even take the fight against me,” Irvin commented. “I consider him an ‘A’ level fighter, and I consider myself a ‘C’ level fighter, maybe a ‘B’ level because I just beat Houston trying to claw my way up to the top. So for him to take a step down and fight me, I’m greatly appreciative of the guy, who is someone I look up to as one of those top tier fighters.”
Evans previously commented to MMAWeekly Radio that he believed Irvin was a dangerous opponent who creates new problems in the fight that even Liddell didn’t present.
“Not saying I’m better than Chuck, just that our styles are different,” stated Irvin. “Chuck seems to want to kind of take a punch to give two or three back and he’s on his heels back-peddling the whole time. He really lures people in. He’s just so accurate with his punches.
“I don’t want to take a punch. I don’t want people to get off on me first. So I kind of seem to explode on people and that’s usually when I have my best fights, when people give me room to jump on them, the way I did against Houston Alexander.”
For his training camp preparing for Evans, Irvin will spend the next month with the Fairtex team in Thailand before returning home to close out the last few weeks alongside UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson in Big Bear, Calif.
And while Irvin is looking forward to the opportunity to knock Evans out, he’s more than ready for the wrestling prowess that his opponent possesses.
“I’m anticipating him changing levels and trying to take me down. If anything, I’m going to try to catch him at those moments. I plan on getting taken down, I’d be dumb to say I think I’m not,” Irvin said. “I’m not going to keep him off of me, he’s too good of a wrestler. He’s too good of a topical fighter not to impose his will on me at least a few times. So I’m planning on getting up off the ground and getting up off my back. And if anything, I want to make him pay every time he does try to come in and grab a hold of me or close that gap on me.”
Irvin will be in Thailand for a month as he prepares to face Evans at UFC 85 on June 7 in London, which will now be headlined by a bout between former welterweight champion Matt Hughes and American Top Team fighter Thiago Alves.