Rashad Evans has seen it all.
From winning the second season of The Ultimate Fighter to claiming the UFC light heavyweight championship to stepping into the Octagon against some of the greatest fighters in history, the Niagara Falls native has become a staple among the UFC highlight reels.
With notable victories over Tito Ortiz, Dan Henderson, Quinton Jackson, Chuck Liddell, Forrest Griffin and Michael Bisping early in his career, the man known as “Suga” catapulted himself into rarified air as one of the most talented, and confident, pugilists walking the Earth.
But, as often happens with fighters, this meteoric rise came with a jarring fall.
So, after 13 years of fighting, Evans finally took time to reflect on some of his more memorable moments inside the Octagon.
“Stepping on the scene with that big knockout of Sean Salmon in Hollywood, Florida,” Evans told Luke Thomas during a recent appearance on The MMA Hour. “The big night with Chuck Liddell that changed my life. That one was a big one not just because of the results but because going into that fight, mentally speaking, I answered the call. I felt that was me stepping into what I like to call my mastery. That’s that level where I start stepping into the skill level that I know I’m good at. It was an important time for me, that was a great high.
“A big one was when I beat Phil Davis and the way that I was able to dominate him in the wrestling. That, for me, was a feather in my cap because he was a Division-I National Champion and before that fight he talked about how much of a better wrestler he was than me. That felt good to show him that ‘Nah, you were just lucky I wasn’t in your weight class.’”
But now that fans won’t able to see him trade leather ever again, the UFC made sure it wouldn’t forget Evans’ accomplishments as it announced him as the newest member UFC Hall of Fame Class of 2019.
So, with his historic honor, how does Evans view his Hall of Fame career? Does he feel any regret about how everything played out? Absolutely not.
“I couldn’t be happier [with my career],” Evans said. “Even though it didn’t end the way that I wanted to, it ended the way it needed to. That’s one that I had to reflect on and accept on. Just accept and move forward in life. But there’s a lot to be proud of with the career that I have. Watching that [career] montage, I forgot the emotion behind some of the things I’ve accomplished because I haven’t put myself in a position to have perspective. So being able to have perspective one Saturday was just an emotional thing.”
As for how he views the tail end of career, Evans offered a somber take as he looked back at his last few walks to the Octagon and reflected on the moment he knew it was his time in the UFC was coming to an end.
“When I lost to Dan Kelly at [UFC 207], that was a moment for me that was like ‘Dude, what is going on?’” Evans said. “Dan Kelly is a hard-nose fighter but I felt my skill level and where I can fight at is a lot higher and I did not exhibit that. It was kind of sad for me because towards the end of my career my desire to want to compete, that flame and that burning desire that had me not afraid to compete against guys that were 6-foot 7, 6-foot 8 and outweighed me by 30 or 40 pounds, that dog that was there kind of changed. It changed because my life changed and dealing with the things that happened in my life while I was in my career, all those things change you as a fighter. Then, towards the end, the piece of me that made me fight, the dog in me, the piece I was trying to heal, it got healed up a bit and life wasn’t the same mentally for me. So, competing for me was a lot harder. That was an adjustment I had to make.
“Coming to peace and coming to understand the fact that I don’t need to fight in order to—I can still be able to be me without fighting and come to peace with being able to stop fighting, that was a process. But it’s something I’m glad I decided to stop and I decided to do.”
But what about how his fellow fighters view his career? Does he hope he’s remembered for his skull rattling knockouts, dominant wrestling, and braggadocios persona? Without missing a beat, Evans kept it blunt on how he wants this new generation to remember him.
“I hope it’s one that is about giving,” Evans said when asked what he hoped his legacy would be. “Yeah, I was tough and yeah, I did my thing. But, at the end of the day, I think a life is truly measured by how it has impacted others. I want to be able to be one that impacted a lot of people.”