Rashad Evans will co-headline UFC 156 after a lengthy layoff. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
No one can dispute Rashad Evans’ status as an elite light heavyweight. However, the presence of a still-improving Jon Jones atop the 205-pound division could force the former champion to seek another path in his pursuit of Ultimate Fighting Championship gold.
Could a move to middleweight be in order?
“Everything’s a possibility,” Evans said during a pre-fight media call for UFC 156.
For now, he bides his time at 205 pounds. Evans will meet former Pride Fighting Championships standout Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in the UFC 156 “Aldo vs. Edgar” co-main event on Saturday at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. Until he resolves his business there, the idea of a drastic career change remains on the back burner.
“First thing’s first: the only thing on my mind is getting past Nogueira,” Evans said. “That is my focus more than anything.”
Since winning Season 2 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” Evans has compiled one of the sport’s strongest resumes. The 33-year-old Niagara Falls, N.Y., native has tasted defeat just twice -- a knockout loss to Lyoto Machida and a decision defeat to Jones -- in 15 Octagon appearances. Evans, who held the light heavyweight championship from Dec. 27, 2008 until May 23, 2009, has considered a move to 185 pounds before.
“It would be a lifestyle change, not just pre-fight stuff,” he said. “The whole diet year-round would have to change. Naturally, my body goes to like 235 [pounds] when I’m not consistently training. I’d have to change everything about my diet on a daily basis. If the opportunity were available, I would do so. One reason why I didn’t do it was [because I was thinking], ‘Why would I make the drop to 185 if I’m in the same place at 205? Why cut the extra 20 pounds?’”
Context means everything to Evans.
“If it were a title shot or against a top contender that people want to see or something ... at the same time, I’m already at the top of my division,” he said. “For me to go to 185, I’d have to start over and prove myself at 185. I’m good at 205, but who knows how good I’d be at 185. There are a lot of variables that would come into play. I’d have to do a test [weight] cut and see how I feel there.
“It’s a big question mark for me,” Evans added. “Once I got past 30, my body started changing a bit. It used to be really easy to make 205, and now I have to be careful about supplements that can mess with my weight. I can be 227 to 230 without even trying.”
Still, Evans admits to being intrigued by the idea of testing himself against a pound-for-pound icon like middleweight champion Anderson Silva and the possibility of joining an exclusive list of two-division titleholders in the UFC.
“It would be a tremendous honor to have held the belt in two different divisions and also to beat Anderson,” he said. “I get excited every time I get a chance to watch him fight. When my career is all said and done, I want to say I competed against some of the best guys in history. Fighting Anderson, I could say I went against the best ever.”
Nogueira comes first. The 36-year-old Brazilian last fought at UFC 140 in December 2011, when he stopped hall of famer Tito Ortiz on punches and elbows to the body at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. Evans faces a similar layoff, having remained inactive since bowing to Jones by unanimous decision at UFC 145 some 10 months ago. He does not view the sabbatical as a negative.
“Your peak years are decided upon how well you take care of your body more than anything,” Evans said. “I feel pretty good. Having the time off allowed my body to feel better. I think a lot of times fighters do camps and fight without giving their body a chance to heal. Letting my body heal up is going to make my career last a little longer.”
Big Problem, Big Solutions for ‘Bigfoot’ Silva
Silva will confront the hulking Overeem in a featured matchup at UFC 156, as he looks to hand the Dutchman his first defeat in more than five years. “Bigfoot” notched his first Octagon victory at UFC on FX 5 in October, when he throttled Travis Browne with first-round punches at the Target Center in Minneapolis. Now, Silva has his sights set on much more ambitious prey.
Overeem and Silva were scheduled to meet once before in the Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix semifinals in September 2011. However, their pairing was scrapped when the “Demolition Man” withdrew with an injury, leaving Silva to face -- and lose to -- the unbeaten Daniel Cormier.
“I don’t care about the title shot now,” Silva said. “I’ve been waiting for this fight for two years. My focus is 100 percent on Overeem.”
The 32-year-old Overeem will stride into the cage on the strength of eight consecutive victories, seven of them first-round finishes. He last appeared at UFC 141 in December 2011, when he liver kicked former World Wrestling Entertainment superstar Brock Lesnar into retirement. Silva knows he has his hands full.
“He’s a tough guy, [with] great striking,” he said. “He’s a complete guy, with the best striking in the UFC, but this is not kickboxing. This is MMA. I’m ready for every situation, and I’m going to win this fight.”
This & That
Frankie Edgar has gone five full rounds in five of his last six outings, compiling a 2-2-1 record in those 25-minute affairs ... Jon Fitch’s 14 UFC victories tie him for eighth on the all-time list, trailing only Matt Hughes (18), Georges St. Pierre (17), Silva (16), Chuck Liddell (16), Randy Couture (16), Josh Koscheck (15) and Ortiz (15) ... Born on Jan 31, 1984 in San Antonio, Joseph Benavidez shares a birthday with “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and late hall of fame sportscaster Curt Gowdy ... According to FightMetric data, American Top Team’s Gleison Tibau has recorded 64 takedowns in his career, second most in UFC history behind St. Pierre’s 75 ... Tyron Woodley was a two-time NCAA All-American wrestler at the University of Missouri, where he teamed with current Bellator Fighting Championships welterweight titleholder and 2008 Olympian Ben Askren ... Isaac Vallie-Flagg has not lost a fight since July 28, 2007, having compiled a 10-0-1 record in that span ... Bobby Green was a two-division champion inside the King of the Cage promotion ... Edwin Figueroa hails from McKinney, Texas, which was named the second best place to live in the United States by Money magazine in August 2012 ... Hawaiian newcomer Dustin Kimura is the only undefeated fighter on the UFC 156 roster.