Similarly to his oft-injured Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight counterpart Dominick Cruz, Rashad Evans (19-3-1) will soon make a long-awaited return to the Octagon at the UFC 192 pay-per-view (PPV) on Oct. 3, 2015 versus streaking Light Heavyweight contender Ryan Bader (19-4).
Evans, a former 205-pound champion, has occupied a spot within the elite divisional ranks for the past 23 months despite having multiple knee surgeries that have kept him sidelined and out of a match up with Alexander Gustafsson.
While he has been waiting in the wings, Evans has stayed busy commentating for FOX, while training Blackzilian teammates Anthony Johnson and Vitor Belfort for their respective title shots at UFC 187 last May, which not only helped him prepare for his post-UFC life, but the here-and-now.
"The hard thing is when you travel a lot, it's just staying at it and making sure you do something every single day -- even if it's not what you typically do because you don't want to have any setbacks. You don't want to get weaker," Evans told MMAmania back in April. "I've just been diligent about doing something every single day and getting my drills in."
Fate also played a part in his "Suga's" return to mixed martial arts (MMA) competition as the 36-year-old elected to have another knee surgery last February following an injury to prospective UFC Fight Night 61 opponent Glover Teixeira.
Now, Evans is finally ready to show the MMA masses that he is still a high-level threat in the Light Heavyweight division.
"I want to go out and show I'm still at the top of the division. I need to find my rhythm and find all the things I need to do to win so I can sleep at night," Evans said during the UFC 192 media conference call. "Ryan Bader has been looking good lately. [Beating] Ryan puts me in-line to get to DC [Daniel Cormier]."
The former Michigan State Spartan is referring to current 205-pound king Daniel Cormier, who defends his belt for the first time against two-time title challenger Alexander Gustafsson in the headliner of the same PPV.
To reach "DC," Evans will need to make a statement against "Darth," who sports equally impressive NCAA Division I wrestling credentials, as well as heavy hands. Bader has won four straight fights over ranked fighters such as Ovince Saint Preux and Phil Davis.
His prowess on the mat is sure to clash with Evans wrestling expertise to make for either an explosive main card exchange or a lethargic clinch-heavy tilt that will leave fans restless.
Whichever is the case, you can count on Evans trying to make up for lost time -- time that he spent refining his power and athleticism in an intelligent training manner.
"I'm excited to show everyone what I've been working on the last two years besides being injured," Evans said. "The biggest key was training smart with the same intensity. I had to reform some things in my training, but I completed this camp without any injuries."
For more on the UFC 192: "Cormier vs. Gustafsson" fight card click here.