Rashad Evans is a long way from Florida.
In an effort to shake things up and break out of a career-worst three-fight skid, the former UFC light heavyweight champion recently moved his camp from sunny Boca Raton to New Jersey. If that wasn’t enough of a change for Evans, he also fights south of the border for the first time when he takes on Sam Alvey in a middleweight bout at UFC Fight Night 114 in Mexico City on Saturday.
This wasn’t all part of some grand plan for “Suga,” but he’s welcomed getting the chance for a fresh start even if the journey has had some bumps.
“I didn’t really give it too much thought,” Evans told Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour, when asked how he came to be booked in Mexico. “Good thing I didn’t because I wouldn’t have done it if I really thought about it, but I was just in a place where I just wanted to fight. I wanted to fight and I got tired of sitting around, and that in-between grind where you’re just coming off of a loss and you really want to compete, and you want to get back on track, you’ll take any fight and I took this one.
“It turned out to be a blessing in disguise because it actually forced me to do what I needed to do, which is get out of my comfort zone.”
In his last three fights, Evans has struggled to showcase the skills that once made him the king of the 205-lb division. Losses to Ryan Bader and Glover Teixeira convinced him to drop down to middleweight, but even that couldn’t halt his free-fall as he then lost a split decision to Dan Kelly. Evans hasn’t seen his hand raised in the Octagon since Nov. 16, 2013.
Something had to give, so Evans decided to pack up and head to New Jersey to work with coach Mark Henry. That actually resulted in him temporarily moving into the basement of Frankie Edgar’s father-in-law, a lifestyle adjustment that had Evans questioning whether he’d made the right call.
“I was very close to calling up my manager Ali (Abdel-Aziz) and being like, ‘I’m done, I don’t want to train here’ and something told me just to stick it out for a couple of days and then after a while it just got easier and easier to the point that I learned to embrace it and I really enjoyed it and I made the best of the situation,” Evans said.
“I got some really good training out there with Corey Anderson, and Karl (Roberson), the guy who just won (on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series), and a couple of other guys. Nick Catone’s gym and Frankie Edgar’s gym, and working with Mark Henry has been a blessing to me, so I really enjoyed my training in Jersey.”
There was also the sense that his time in Florida had come up. Evans found that he wasn’t receiving the kind of one-on-one attention that he was used to, which meant he had to look elsewhere to acquire more dedicated coaching.
But Evans knows that all of that upheaval won’t mean anything if he doesn’t perform on fight night. That’s a responsibility that rests solely on his shoulders and he’s confident that he’ll be rewarded for the time he’s put in to this process.
“Just trust and believe in myself and my training more than anything. Because that’s all I have, to be honest,” Evans said. “I’ve just been isolated this whole camp. I went from Jersey to Mexico City, the name of this camp has just been finding comfort in uncomfortable situations. I found my way to feel some kind of comfort, I found some way to feel that security that you feel when you’re at home and you have all the support behind me.”