05/05/11 - Exclusive: Rashad Evans talks Jones, Davis, leaving Jackson's and moving forwardFormer UFC light-heavyweight champion Rashad Evans gave a joint interview to Fighters Only and Brazilian news outlet Terra.com this week, discussing his recent upheavals and decision to change camps in the wake of a fall-out with Jon Jones.
Evans also talked about the current light-heavyweight landscape, including the future of fellow former champion Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua. Here’s part one of the interview; part two will be published on Friday:
FO: Jon Jones announced he had a hand injury that means he cannot fight until later in the year, which cancelled the fight between yourselves. Are you disappointed to be fighting Phil Davis at UFC 132 now instead?
I am a bit disappointed to be honest but I am at the point now where I just want to fight again. I was training really hard and getting back into shape and rehabbing my knee to come back 100 per cent. I was in the training mindset and looking to go out there and prove myself again, to show the world that I am one of the best fighters in the 205lb division.
FO: Is the fight interesting to you or is just a case of getting rid of your ‘ring rust’?
No its a very interesting fight. Phil Davis is not a fight that you would get and take as a fight to shake off ring rust. The kid is a serious threat. Actually I was with Phil in Las Vegas a few months ago and I was joking around telling him ‘I’ve got my eye on you’.
I am a Phil Davis fan, I really like Phil Davis a lot. Every time he fights I am usually rooting for him, coming from a wrestling background and I have watched his steady progression. You know, I was watching Phil Davis when he first started, I watched his MMA debut and I have watched him just grow and grow as a fighter and watched his confidence grow.
I am very excited to be getting in there with an up-and-coming fighter like this.
FO: Its a dangerous fight for Phil Davis; he is inexperienced compared to you and maybe some would say not at your level…
Well, all this about who is at what level - it all gets decided in the cage. I can proclaim to be at a higher level and then he goes out there and lands the right punch, does something right, all that goes out the window. You know, in order to be somebody you have to beat somebody and he is now in a prime position to go in there and make a name off me. I can’t let that happen, I have to go in there and fight as if this is my title fight because to be honest, I have been out for such a long time that I am hungry to fight again.
I want to fight again. I am done chasing the belt, I am gonna let the belt chase me. By that I mean I am going to go out there and string together some wins and I am gonna go out there and fight my heart out.
FO: String together some wins? But surely if you beat Davis you get the title shot again?
Well you know what, the way things have been happening lately you never know. I am not gonna say this is definitely gonna happen if I beat Phil Davis. If I do get a title shot after I beat Phil Davis, that’s a bonus, but for the most part I am looking to just to go out there and fight.
FO: After so long away from the cage, how you get back into fully-sharp fight mentality?
One thing I do to keep myself sharp, I train and spar with guys that are competing regularly and are sharp and on point. With that said, training and sparring are so different from an actual fight but it gives you that sense of where your timing is, where you are sharp and where you are off. Its kind of like a rough draft you go through to make sure the timing is still there.
But I have been very blessed to have a great management team round me now that just let me worry about the fighting, they’ve brought Jen Wenk over to do the PR
and so I don’t I have to worry about things from a PR
point of view and my manager Glen Robinson handles things from a managerial point of view. So this is like the first time in my career where I can wake up in the morning and just focus on fighting and don’t have to worry about anything else.
FO: Have you heard this conspiracy theory, that Jones pretended to be hurt so he does not have to fight you?
Whether he came up with an excuse not to fight me or its legit and he’s really injured, I really cant worry about that to be honest. I would like to believe that something is wrong with him because a fighter like Jon Jones, who has been so confident and absolutely goes out there, I don’t think there is anything that intimidates him right now.
So I don’t think its anything he is conjuring up not to face me. The kid looks for challenges, like when we were training he would always push himself and go with a hardy guy. I was his main training partner and we would give each other a tough time in practice.
FO: So you were his main training partner, he was your main training partner?
Yeah for his fight with Ryan Bader… we didn’t train together for a couple of camps but I wanted to re-establish a relationship with him because we had a bit of a rocky history before; the way he came in, then I left, then I heard rumours that he said he could beat me and whatnot, then me and him talked and started establishing a relationship.
And I wanted to come out there (Albuquerque) and really solidify things and just be a really good training parner because I felt that stylistically me and Bader are comparable and I knew I could give him a good loo. So during the Bader camp I did everything I could to make sure he was ready for that fight. I was being Ryan Bader during training and doing things that Bader would do, taking some of those shots that Jon Jones put on Bader.
When you’re training like that your main objective is to go out there and be that person and that’s what I was doing for Jon. And it was good for me because I started my camp [for the aborted Shogun fight] early, in Albuqerque. I started 13 weeks in advance whereas normally I would have an 8-week camp. I wanted to kick my camp off really good and high level by going with somebody at the level of Jon Jones and at the same time gave him a really good look for his fight.
FO: How has it been for you having to leave the Jackson camp and move elsewhere?
In hindsight - and hindsight is 20/20 as we all know - it has been a big shake up for me. And I really didn’t expect it to be. We weren’t THE best of friends but we did have a chemistry together, we fed off each other and I felt we made each other better. He is very creative and at times he would be like, ‘Hey Rashad you should try this move, I think it would work for you’ and then I would show him things that I know, and we would exchange ideas.
It was never any selfishness where he was trying to get the upper hand on me or vice versa, it was just purely feeding off each other. It was a healthy competition in training practice where we would both really try and push each other. And then I would be sparring other people and he would be like ‘Hey Rashad watch out for this, look out for that’ and it was just like friends or like brothers. We had definitely grown closer together.
And so not only falling out with him but falling out with the whole team over there - they have been like my whole family. I go away to training camp and it can be hard being away from your family but I found in Albuquerque that they were another family, a home away from home. I loved everybody on the team dearly and so to not be there any more, feel that energy and be a part of that is a hard thing.
FO: When I’ve listened to you talk about it all its not like you’re pissed off or angry as such, more like you’re feeling hurt, maybe a sense of betrayal? The emotion in your voice is clear.
Yeah that was my exact sentiment, I felt a sense of betrayal and more hurt than anything. I didn’t really feel comfortable with having Jon Jones on the team just because I knew how good he was going to be. I like to compete against the best, I want to compete against the guys everyone says I cant beat and now one of them is on the team? I didn’t like that at all.
With that said, we did get to grow close and I loved the way he was progressing. Before the fight with Shogun, I knew he was going to absolutely destroy him because I knew Jon’s capabilities. Jon is the only person that can beat Jon sometimes. He is a great fighter and I knew if he went out there and he was on target, he would destroy Shogun.
But its been a very hard thing not to be part of my team that I helped build out there and Albuquerque.
FO: Since you and Jones fell out, it seems that perhaps other cracks have started showing in the Jackson camp. Nate Marquardt says he would fight Georges St. Pierre “if he had to”, coach Wittman of the affiliated Grudge Training Center sided with you publicly. Is the fraternity under threat?
The thing about it was, that fraternity was pretty much started with five fighters - myself, Nate Marquardt, Joey Villasenor, Keith Jardine and GSP. The whole thing about it was we were a bunch of guys who enjoyed training together and really gave everything we had. And at the time the only people who had a thing about not fighting each other was me and Keith Jardine; we were able to avoid that even though at times it came really close.
It came as close as this - if Jardine had not got knocked down in that last ten seconds with Rampage, it would have been for me to fight him instead of Rampage next. So it came pretty close but our team, and the greatness we established, was pretty much built on love and how dedicated we were. The time off we had, we dedicated it to making sure each other got better. We had a strategy where would stack it so one week Keith would go train with GSP, then the next week I would go, and so on, so it made sure he had a high level partner every week in training camp.
We did it like that back and forth for each other for years. Now its become about something fundamentally different from what we started as. Before, it wasn’t about getting a belt - although we all trained to be champions, but it wasn’t about stepping on your friends to get there, it wasn’t so much about money. It was just about love of the sport, love of competing, love of training. Everything is different now.
FO: Jon Jones made some comments recently, that he beat you in sparring and so on. What was your reaction to that when you heard it?
The only thing that upset me about it was that it wasn’t true.
If it was true, I would have been like ‘OK, whatever.’ If Jones got the better of me in any practice it was probably because I was trying to pretend I was Ryan Bader. One thing my job is as a training partner is to make sure my fighter goes into the cage one hundred per cent confident. There can’t be any doubts in his mind because if there is he will hesitate. So I just wanted Jon to go in there confident and if it meant me taking a knee or a punch, that’s fine.
As far as grappling, Jon never submitted me or even came close. Not even in the same league. There were things that happened in training that I did to him which I am sure he hasn’t forgotten about.
But its not about what happens in training. I have beaten and destroyed some of the best in training and they have beaten and destroyed me. One time I got my butt kicked by 135lb Damacio Page! That’s just what happens in training, sometimes you are the shark and sometimes you are the bait. And that’s just what happens. Its not about winning every practice, its about learning every practice and coming back stronger.
Training mimics a fight and sometimes you are going to be in a fight where you are getting your butt kicked but you gotta tap into when you were tired and getting your butt kicked in practice and be like ‘you know what, I am gonna strap it on and go through this because I been through this already before.’ So the fact that he said that shows more insecurity to me than anything else.