Rashad Evans is talking, trying to point out that he's come back from some desperate situations before. Things haven't always been easy and have often not gone his way, but he's come out on top regardless, Evans said.
He's upbeat, relaxed and confident.
He faces Dan Henderson on Saturday in the main event of UFC 161 at the sold-out MTS Centre in Winnipeg having lost his last two bouts.
While a third loss in a row wouldn't likely cost him his job, it would relegate him to also-ran status, a foreign place for a guy who has been at or near the top of the heap for most of his 7 1/2-year run in the UFC.
"I'm no stranger to adversity," Evans says, cheerfully. "I feel like I rise to the occasion when I'm faced with adversity. When things aren't going my way, when it's gut check time, that is where I feel I shine."
He's done just about everything there is to do in the UFC. He's won the light heavyweight title. He's won "The Ultimate Fighter." He's faced and beaten some of the greatest fighters in the history of mixed martial arts.
There is no need for an apology for his record. He's 22-3-1 and is clearly one of the best fighters of the Zuffa era of the UFC.
But coming off back-to-back desultory losses to light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Evans is suddenly in a vastly different position than he's ever been.
His star has always been ascendant; even after the one-sided defeat to Jones, his arch-rival and one-time friend, he was only a win away from a middleweight title shot against the great Anderson Silva before losing to Nogueira.
Going into the Henderson fight, though, it's almost like he's fighting for his professional life. UFC president Dana White said during a media scrum Thursday that it would be all but impossible for the loser of the fight to get back to title contention.
Evans has been a title contender for the last six years, and just being one of the guys would be difficult to accept. But essentially, the loser will become a gatekeeper of sorts.
As Evans talks about overcoming adversity, it begins to sound almost as if he's trying to convince himself he's still got it.
The loss to Jones is easily understood. He is the only man to go the distance with Jones in a title fight and, while Jones clearly won, he didn't batter Evans the way he did all of his other title-fight victims.
It was the loss to Nogueira, though, that was so puzzling and put Evans on the brink of also-ran status. Even in fights in which the public wasn't enthused with his performance, such as his win over Quinton "Rampage" Jackson at UFC 114, Evans always fought with a passion.
Against Nogueira, though, he showed nothing. He fought as if the cage was the last place he wanted to be that night.
"His head hasn't been into this game for a while," White told Yahoo! Sports. "He claims it is now, so we'll see. He had some personal problems for a good year-and-a-half, two years, and I think that took its toll on him. But he's told me his life is in a good place now, personally and professionally."
Evans simply said of his performance against Nogueira, "There was a lot going on behind the scenes."
But the fight game is a cruel business, and it has no sympathy for those going through a rough patch in life. It's as cutthroat a business as there is and it demands an all-in approach.
Henderson is coming off his own lackluster performance in a loss to Lyoto Machida, though Henderson places the blame for that squarely on Machida's style.
"I could have been more aggressive and pressed a little more, but it's tough to do when a guy runs like Machida did," Henderson said.
Evans isn't going to run, and Henderson knows that. Henderson also understands the implications of another loss, and he's not ready to be eliminated from title contention.
Henderson is, and always has been, highly motivated by the title, and White said that will put a burden on Evans.
"Henderson is a guy who is motivated not only to win, but to win impressively because he wants to stay in the top echelon at 205," White said. "I know he has that motivation, but we'll see about Rashad. He says he has it, but at this point, it's about going out there and doing it."
Evans has become somewhat of a hermit as he's prepared to face Henderson. He didn't get engaged with his fans in social media. He's kept a low profile, or at least as low of a profile as a former UFC champion can keep.
He hasn't read much, if any, of what has been written about him. He has, he said, a sense of urgency in this fight.
"I just haven't wanted to be around those bad thoughts, bad vibes," Evans said. "I've been off Twitter, off the media. I don't pay attention to the press. It's not like I dislike [the media] but I don't want to hear those bad thoughts and let it creep into my thinking. I want to create my own reality, and if you have nothing positive to say at this point, I don't need to be around you."
He has a bearing about him that he hasn't had in a while. He seems as if he's rediscovered the fire that propelled him to become one of the great fighters in the world.
But he's been around long enough to understand he's in a business that's about doing, not talking.
"A lot of people didn't like that performance [against Nogueira] and they've let me know it," Evans said, chuckling again. "But it wasn't me. For whatever reason, that wasn't me. It was a mental issue, for sure. But that's behind me and I think you'll see that by the way I fight [Saturday]."
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