by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com

It seems so long ago that Rashad Evans was celebrating his victory over Brad Imes to win the second season of “The Ultimate Fighter” reality show, but that opportunity led him to last Saturday night and the chance to become the new UFC light heavyweight champion. 

In a division laced with unbelievably tough competition, Evans has managed to remain undefeated while swimming with piranhas. Now the former Michigan State wrestler walks with the biggest target of all on his back with the gold strap around his waist. 

“I believe I would be here one day,” Evans told MMAWeekly.com about his journey to become champion.  “I just didn’t know when or how long it was going to take, but I believed I was going to be here.” 

While there can be no real disappointment in a performance that yielded the result that it did, Evans is still able to critique his own fight, and he realizes that he will still be able to grow in the future. 

“Just come out a little bit cleaner.  I felt kind of sloppy in the first two rounds; I don’t know where I was at the first couple rounds.  Forrest did a good job of pressing forward and all the things he was doing,” Evans said of his performance at UFC 92.  “I just didn’t feel my legs coming through yet, but I knew I was in great shape, I wasn’t even tired yet.” 

The end result was a TKO victory over Forrest Griffin, a title belt now in his possession, and the nickname of “champ” everywhere he goes.   Obviously Evans put forth a great deal of hard work to get to this point, but even with the gold still freshly dropped in his hands, he remains humble. 

Never one to forget what got him to where he is; Evans is quick to point out the determining factor to his championship run. 

“The key element is my team,” he commented.  “That’s the biggest element right there is my team.  Keith Jardine, one of the toughest guys in my weight class, without him and all the cats on my team, Joey Villasenor, I couldn’t be where I am right now.” 

Now with possibly the most coveted title in all of MMA around his waist, Evans is ready to face any and all challengers that want a shot at his UFC light heavyweight title. 

“I knew once I got the belt, I knew my mindset had to change as far as defending it,” he stated.  “Even right now, I feel like there’s a lot I want to do better, in the fight early on I didn’t find my rhythm as fast as I wanted to, but I just want to be able to come out there and put anybody out first round, or how long it may go.” 

Names like Quinton “Rampage” Jackson have already been mentioned, and others will likely vie for that chance as well, but Evans is ready for whatever and whoever steps in the cage against him next.  

“Maybe (Lyoto) Machida or something like that, I don’t even know.  Whoever the UFC picks for me to fight, I’m just ready to go in there and defend the title and make it a great fight,” he said. 

For now, Evans will travel home to spend time with his family and new baby that are happy to welcome him back as husband, father and, of course, champion.   

UFC 92 VIDEO: Rashad Evans Post-Fight Interview 

UFC 92 VIDEO: Quinton “Rampage” Jackson Post-Fight Interview 

UFC 92 VIDEO: UFC 92 Post-Fight Press Conference 

UFC 92 VIDEO: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira Post-Fight Interview 

EXCLUSIVE: UFC 92 Photo Gallery