April 19, 2016

UFC on FOX 19: Whatever Rashad Evans Wants To Do, It Should Be His Choice

By Adam Martin

Rashad Evans is one of the greatest fighters in UFC history. He's a former UFC light heavyweight champion, a former TUF winner, and he's fought 20 times inside the Octagon, compiling an impressive 14-5-1 record. He has fought the best of the best, and in his prime he was nearly unstoppable except when he fought another undefeated fighter in Lyoto Machida. He'll be a Hall of Famer when it's all said and done.

But MMA is a brutal sport, and after competing as a pro for the last 12 years, it appears Evans has really lost a step. After seeing him get brutally knocked out by Glover Teixeira in the main event of UFC on FOX 19 this past weekend, Evans is now on a two-fight losing streak and has lost four of his last six fights. Considering this is a guy who went undefeated over the first 14 fights of his career, and had only one loss in his first 19 MMA fights, it's been a steep decline for "Suga."

After the loss, Evans conducted a post-fight interview with Heidi Androl. The former champ said getting knocked out by Teixeira "was frustrating, was hurtful, was unexpected...but (it's) part of the sport." Evans said his training camp went well and he felt good coming into the fight, but obviously, that didn't matter. When asked what's next for him, he said "that's a good question. I want to fight again, but there are some things I need to clear up, there are some things to do to get me back. It's just disappointing... I just ask myself 'Where did I lose it?' Fighting used to come so easy, so natural, now I feel like I'm fighting against myself. I need to get back 'that thing.'"

It was a tough interview to watch. Evans, who is also an analyst for FOX, is generally regarded as one of the good guys in the sport, one of the most-respected athletes in a profession full of controversial figures, and as the winner of TUF 2 back when the UFC was in its boom phase, it's fair to call him a pioneer of the modern era of the sport. But it's clear to anyone who watched the Teixeira fight, and who watched his last fight against Ryan Bader, that he just isn't the same guy anymore. That will happen with age to any athlete, but especially in MMA, where the punches add up over the years. And judging by Evans' comments, clearly he sees what everyone else is seeing, and it's obvious he is contemplating his future in the sport.

Immediately after the loss, many commenters were saying Evans should hang up his gloves for good. After all, he has a nice job with FOX to fall back on, something not every fighter can say. Plus, he's been making good money his entire career, so it's not like he has financial issues like some other fighters have when they retire. But this is a guy who truly loves the sport, a guy many of us grew up watching fight, and he doesn't want it all to end this way. Unfortunately for Evans, sometimes what the mind wants the body doesn't, and it's clear his body is telling him it's nearing the end. Still, though, it's up to Evans to decide what he wants to do -- not fans on Twitter, not the media, and not the UFC. He has earned the right to make the biggest decision of his career, whether to continue fighting or to hang them up.

Obviously, he is in no risk of getting cut, even with the two losses in a row. He is still a draw, and if he did get released, Bellator would snap him up in a heartbeat. This isn't about money. This is about Evans deciding how much more damage he can take. When Evans lost to Jon Jones, everyone just said it was because Jones was better. When he lost to Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, most chalked it up to a bad night at the office. But the signs of Evans slowing down were there in that fight. When he fought Dan Henderson, he won a split decision, but he was knocked down with a jab. He beat Chael Sonnen, but Sonnen quit in that fight. And then Evans missed two more years before coming back and getting outstruck by a wrestler in Bader, something that seemed unthinkable just a few years ago. And now he’s been destroyed by Teixeira, his lights put out during a brutal series of strikes from the Brazilian. He may have said he still wants to fight in his post-game interview, but once he takes some time off to reflect, he may change his mind.

Whatever Evans decides to do, it should be his choice, and his choice only. He can still win fights in the UFC, but if he's not fighting for a belt, it may not be worth it to him anymore.However, it's up to him to decide what he wants to do. Regardless of what decision he ultimately makes, Evans will go down as one of the best fighters ever in the history of the sport. I always felt like Evans was never appreciated as much as he should have been during his career, but he'll be in the Hall of Fame for sure. He's had an amazing career, and if this is the end, he can leave with his head held high.

UFC on Fox 19
Rashad Evans vs. Glover Teixeira: Glover Teixeira def. Rashad Evans via knockout (punches) at 1:48 of Round 1.

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UFC on Fox 19: Teixeira vs. Evans (formerly UFC on Fox 19: Nurmagomedov vs. Ferguson) takes place on April 16, 2016 at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida.

Click the stars to rate how good you think UFC on Fox 19 was.

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