CHICAGO – He's in the middle of a divorce, his brother is about to be sent off to war in Afghanistan and attention from his fight was taken away first by extraordinary interest in the co-main event and then by a group of hackers who exposed Dana White's personal information on the Internet.
It can't be easy for Rashad Evans, the former light heavyweight champion who faces unbeaten Phil Davis on Saturday at the sold-out United Center in the main event of UFC on Fox 2.
Evans tried to get a little banter going with Davis in an attempt to draw attention to their bout, which is quickly feeling more like the No. 2 match rather than the headliner, but it largely fell flat. Noting at the final pre-fight news conference that the unbeaten Davis looked like an offspring of entertainer Arsenio Hall and ex-NBA player John Salley elicited a few chuckles, but Evans wasn't winning the war of words on this day.
Middleweight contender Chael Sonnen, who faces Michael Bisping in the co-main event stole the show early, carrying a UFC belt with him to the news conference at the W Hotel and cracking up several hundred fans who showed up to watch the event in person with a steady stream of rhymes and one-liners.
"This was Anderson Silva's belt," Sonnen said, referring to the UFC middleweight champion. "I took it from him like a gangster in the night. If he wants it, he knows where to come and get it."
Later on Thursday, it was White himself who stole the headlines from Evans, his main event star. Following the news conference, White repeatedly told reporters "I'm not afraid of the Internet." He called out a group of hackers who'd redirected the URL of UFC.com to UGNazi.com on Sunday in order to protest the UFC's support of SOPA and PIPA.
SOPA and PIPA are bills designed to protect copyright holders' rights, and which are extraordinarily unpopular among the public. Opponents of the bill are concerned that it may damage the open nature of the Internet and lead to censorship.
White supports the bills, which he conceded are "not perfect," because the UFC's pay-per-view stream is pirated so frequently. But he insisted he wasn't concerned about the hackers and issued a direct challenge.
"Keeping hacking our site," White said Thursday following the news conference. "Do it again. Do it tonight."
White's bold statement prompted a person on Twitter to announce that the UGNazi would no longer go after UFC.com, but after White himself. He then responded by posting what were purportedly White's telephone number, address and social security number on the Internet.
That led to White getting into a long back-and-forth with members of the group and its supporters.
It made for a fascinating day, but it didn't do much to help Evans, who will earn a shot at the UFC light heavyweight title held by his one-time protege and now chief rival, Jon Jones, should he win on Saturday.
Evans, though, seemed to be dealing with it as well as might be expected. Davis, a four-time All-American and national champion at Penn State, taunted Evans about their respective wrestling pedigrees.
Davis suggested Evans might not be fully prepared for the challenge he's about to encounter.
"He's not as good as he thinks he is, and I am better than he thinks I am," Davis said. "He thinks he's a better wrestler than me? That's crazy. I would beat him 100 times out of 100. He was something like .500 in wins and losses in wrestling. I was a champion; he just competed."
When Evans said Davis won a national championship during a down year and claimed that he was the superior wrestler, Davis' eyes got large and he shouted into the microphone, "Chicago commission, this man is on drugs!"
Evans laughed and conceded that, despite his bluster, he considers Davis a good guy. Evans has been in several legendary feuds in his time in the UFC, particularly with Tito Ortiz and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, and the one with Jones seems to be bigger than all of them.
Try as he might to create something the last few days, there seems to be no such heat between Evans and Davis. Though he took a few shots at Davis, Evans grinned and said Davis is "so nice and he smiles all the time, so it's hard to even look mean at him."
Davis, though, has the wrestling acumen and the athleticism to hang with Evans and destroy his dream of a title fight match with Jones, which would potentially be one of the most lucrative in UFC history.
Joey Beltran, Davis' training partner, said Davis is hardly overwhelmed by being in the major spotlight for the first time.
"Rashad would be making a big mistake to be thinking Phil's not prepared for this, and I am sure he is not," Beltran said. "Phil is a special guy, and I think you'll see him be at his best in the biggest moments."
Evans has always come up big in the big moments. He's 16-1-1 overall and has four wins against UFC light heavyweight champions in his last six fights.
Because of Davis' wrestling, his length and his athleticism, he'd present a significant challenge for Evans at any time. But with Evans facing a series of personal issues that have to weigh heavily on his mind, the stakes were raised.
Evans wants nothing more than a match with Jones, whom he once was close with and helped train, to prove his superiority.
He'll have to overcome a lot to do it, but it's never wise to count Evans out.
"I was blown away by Rashad [at UFC 133, when he stopped Ortiz]," White said. "He looked incredible. When he fights at that level, he's a tough guy to beat."
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