ATLANTA, GA - FEBRUARY 16: Fighter Rashad Evans speaks during a press conference promoting UFC 145: Jones v Evans at Philips Arena on February 16, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
His opponent in Atlanta, Ga., that night was none other than his former friend and training partner Rashad Evans, who served as a mentor for the young champion as he was coming up the ranks of one of the toughest divisions in mixed martial arts (MMA).
Following their well publicized rift and their year long back-and-forth banter, the two settled their differences inside the Octagon, with "Bones" controlling the majority of the fight en route to a unanimous decision victory. Evans, on the other hand, was left to pick up the pieces and analyze what went wrong and move forward to the next phase of his career.
Since then, not much has been heard from "Suga," who has been healing up in sunny Florida after a tough fight, all the while helping the rest of his "Blackzillians" teammates prepare for their fights.
With no clear sign of what is next for the former 205-pound champion, Evans can't stop thinking about a potential future rematch with Jones, though he says that he has no more ill will toward the man with whom he spent the better part of year involved in a trash-talking battle.
Check it out:
"It was difficult because it was a fight I really wanted, but it was a good learning tool because it helped me understand that things won't always go my way and it was something that helped me grow as a person. Did it hurt? Yes. Physically and emotionally. After the fight, a week later if felt like I had been in a car accident. My body was really banged up but my feelings were hurt more. But after a while you let it go. I didn't get him this time and I know he didn't get him he was a better fighter that night. I'm going to train, get better and I'll get a chance to fight him again. I don't have any ill will towards him or anything like that right now. Probably when we fight again I'll have some words to say to him, but for the most part I don't have a problem with him. If he's the champion, I think I will fight him again, I think our paths will cross one more time. He is very tough because he is very tricky and he made some adjustments in the fight that were really key and that gave him the one. I think he is a tough champion for anybody to beat."
With his dance card currently empty, Evans says he wouldn't mind avenging his only two losses in MMA:
"I would like to Avenge my loss to Jones one day, but also to Machida. Last time he got me pretty good, and all those Internet pictures of me getting knocked out all over the internet."
Evans also touched on how he is received by fans and whether or not the boos affect him or not:
"I don't take it personal, because the way I see it, people don't see me as a person, they see me as a character. So, i can't really get upset if they say something against me or feel a certain way about me because they don't even know me. They just know a character of who they think I might be based on what they have seen on T.V. or anything else like that. But, that's not me as a person. So when they say things to, you know, insulting things or they boo me, I don't get upset about it because they don't know who I am as a person. It used to bother me a lot because I couldn't understand it because i couldn't divorce the two different sides. I couldn't divorce Rashad Evans the fighter and Rashad Evans the person. So when they would insult Rashad Evans the fighter I took it like they were insulting Rashad Evans the person. So I started thinking about it and the older I got I just realized that these people don't know me. The same people that boo me or say something nasty to me are the same ones that will wait two hours in ling to get a picture signed by me or if they see they tell me they are my number one fan and they've followed me since TUF. I'll take a picture with them all the same because the fans are what make you. Without the fans, I would just be somebody that likes to fight. The fans make you, so i don't get mad at them for that. If they boo or cheer for me, its cool because they feel something."
Hate all you want fans, Evans still has love for you.
With Machida currently tabbed to face Ryan Bader at UFC on Fox 4 on Aug., 4, 2012, and Jones currently lined up to defend his title against Dan Henderson at UFC 151 in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Sept., 1, 2012, those two options are clearly off of the table for Evans.
However, he would need a few wins under his belt before he gets another shot at the title, regardless of who the belt hold is at the time.
When and if those rematches ever become reality, do you feel the outcome will be different than the first encounters? Or will "Suga" correct his mistakes and get those losses back? In the meantime, who should Rashad face in his next outing?