ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico -- He walked into the dojo with a certain swagger about him. Cool. Calm. Collected. His walk turned in to a strut. He greets his training partners with a pound of the fist. His chest puffed out, chin up, ready for what the world will throw at him.
He is Rashad Evans (Pictures).
On July 7 the mixed martial arts world will throw Evans his biggest test to date: none other than the "Huntington Beach Bad Boy" Tito Ortiz (Pictures).
"This is a good fight for me," Evans told Sherdog.com. "It's a good chance to show everyone what I got."
Saturday's UFC pay-per-view from Sacramento, Calif. is a chance of a lifetime for Evans, and when he found out who his next opponent would be he was beyond excited.
"Hell yeah," Evans said.
Ortiz, the former UFC light heavyweight champion known for his wrestling and angry ground-and-pound game, won't be a pushover.
"Tito is pretty much the same fighter he has always been," handicapped Evans. "He's a tough fighter."
As far as wrestling ability goes, Evans believes he has the edge on the former Cal State Bakersfield wrestler, whose career was made by forcing high-pedigreed grapplers to their backs.
"You can be good at collegiate wrestling but it doesn't transfer over too well in MMA," said Evans, who wrestled on the same squad as Gray Maynard (Pictures) at Michigan State. "It all depends; I think my wrestling is superior to his."
Smartly, Evans hasn't relied on his wrestling to carry him in MMA, and has started to come full circle as a fighter. At UFC 63, the TUF 2 winner mounted Jason Lambert (Pictures) and almost punched the Californian's head through the canvas. In his last, fight Evans showed even more of his evolution by creating a highlight-reel when he dropped Sean Salmon (Pictures) with a kick to the head, a clip viewed by any MMA fan with an Internet Service Provider.
Nothing makes a good fight like some old fashioned bad blood. In the weeks leading up to this fight, Ortiz and Evans have taken shots at each other, not holding anything back.
Ortiz's comments included allusions to putting Evans in a wheelchair, as well as calling the African American fighter a "nappy headed ho."
"That's what makes a fight exciting to watch and exciting to be a part of," said Evans. "When you get someone that says all these things, he's going to do this to you or he's going to do that to you, and then you go out there and prove him wrong."
The rivalry kicked off when video of a confrontation between Ortiz and Evans surfaced on the Internet. Standing toe-to-toe jawing at one another, Ortiz shoved Evans while they were cage-side the night Matt Serra (Pictures) stunned George St. Pierre in Houston.
It's been on ever since.
No punches were thrown, but the clip and the subsequent reaction was loud enough to make the Internet buzz spark a fire in anticipation of the light heavyweight tilt.
"Tito came up to me, he tried to half-heartedly wish me good luck on the fight," recalled Evans of the incident in April. "He tried to punk me down a little bit. He said, ‘Good luck in your training and you better watch what you say.'"
Evans gave a look as if I had said those words to him.
"I was like, ‘you not going to tell me what I can and can't say. I'm a man. Who the f--k do you think you talking to?'"
After exchanging words, tensions finally boiled over.
"He made sure he was in a pretty secure environment and he decided to push me," Evans remembered. "If he would have done that when there was nobody around he probably would have got his ass kicked."
This first weekend following the Fourth of July should be full of fireworks, too. Some say this could be the last chance for Ortiz. Others believe "Sugar" Rashad is about to take a huge step forward in his career.
Either way, we'll learn Saturday night if Evans really is ready for what the world -- and Ortiz -- can throw his way.