Rashad Evans reveals the one opponent he would have liked to face – ‘I was such a huge Shogun fan’
Rashad Evans has been there and done it in the world of MMA. But you can’t always fight them all.
“Suga” entered the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in November 2005 at heavyweight as part of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) Season 2 where he defeated Brad Imes via split decision to win the tournament. Evans immediately dropped back down to light heavyweight for his next fight and would go on to win his title he captured from Forrest Griffin in 2009.
Unfortunately for the longtime Jackson-Wink staple, he would lose his first title defense against Lyoto Machida. Two big wins over Thiago Silva and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson bounced Evans back into contention where he was scheduled to face new champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at UFC 128.
“One fight that I would love to see happen that never happened was the Shogun fight,” Evans told CBS Sports’ Shakiel Mahjouri. “Shogun’s fight is the one I really wanted because I was a huge Shogun fan. Watching what he did when he was in Pride, and the legend he created in Pride alone, blew me away. made me want to one day – when I got my skills to this level – to have a chance to fight him. He was fighting before me and was on his way to becoming a legend before I even decided to put my gloves on. finally at this level would be a good thing for me. I’m proud of the fact that even though I didn’t win all my fights, I can say that I faced the best of my time. That’s what I have always meant since the beginning of my career.
The Evans and Shogun saga eventually led to one of MMA’s biggest rivalries. Defeating Rampage after their classic feud as TUF 10 coaches earned Evans his second shot at gold. However, an injury took Evans out of the fight and then-teammate Jon Jones swept the world by storm. The rest, as they say, is history.
Evans won two more fights against Tito Ortiz and Phil Davis before getting the opportunity that slipped away from him, it was just against his old friend in Jones now.
“Bones” would earn a unanimous decision victory and Evans went 2-6 in his next eight fights before retiring and leaving the UFC in 2018.
The UFC actually rescheduled the Evans vs. Shogun fight in 2016, but this time it was Shogun who was sent off with an injury. Future champion Glover Teixeira knocked out Evans in less than two minutes.
Fast forward to 2022 and the 42-year-old Evans has found himself in the Eagle Fighting Championship (Eagle FC) 44 win column.
Talented grappler Gabriel Checco succumbed to Evans via the judges’ unanimous appeal last month and it left Evans wondering if he wants to continue. Eagle FC owner Khabib Nurmagomedov has made things attractive for the UFC Hall of Famer with a four-fight contract offer.
“I still think about it, to be honest. It was a lot of fun and I felt amazing fighting for this organization,” Evans said. “It’s a very good organization. They understand the game from a different point of view in that they can allow the fighter to have enough space during the fight week. They don’t overload the schedule with lots of different things, but at the same time make sure that everything that needs to be done is done.
“It was much better than I thought. The competition for the UFC is such a machine and they are so well organized. They can really reach levels that many organizations don’t even know they have to reach. It was good to have an experience like the UFC outside of the UFC. It showed how the organizations around are starting to really get the ball rolling. This is due, in large part, to the fact that some fighters who have had UFC experience bring that understanding to other organizations. Khabib, being a longtime UFC fighter and legend, brought a lot of those same great things to his organization.