On Friday night (Jan. 28, 2022), former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight champion, Rashad Evans, returned from retirement at 42 years old to get his hand raised at Eagle FC 44 (watch highlights). It was a nice sight to see given how so many of these kinds of comebacks go. But, not only did Evans win against 35-year-old Gabriel Checco (12-6), he looked pretty good doing it en route to a unanimous decision.
Following the fight, Rashad talked to reporters about how it felt to get back in the cage.
“It was a long time coming,” Evans said (video via MMA Junkie). “I’ve dreamed about this moment many times since I retired. It just felt really good to be back out there.”
The biggest battle, according to Evans, was with his own nerves on the night of the fight.
“All day, it was just the longest day of my life sitting in that hotel room until 7:30, until it’s my call time,” he revealed. “It was like sitting in purgatory, I couldn’t really rest. I just stayed in that mindset where you’re just battling yourself the whole time, believe that you got it, but at the same time trying to fight off the dark thoughts if things don’t go your way. But things turned out good today.
“I’d be lying to sit here and tell you that the majority of my day wasn’t sitting in a hotel room thinking, ‘I hope I don’t go out there and embarrass myself, embarrass the team that I work with to help me get ready,’” he continued. “I felt as if I could get to my position, stay within myself, and not allow myself to get overwhelmed by the moment, then I’ll be okay.
“There are times when I’m out there, I just kind of get overwhelmed by the moment just thinking about all these ‘what if’ scenarios instead of getting into the now and what’s going on,” Evans added. “And I felt like tonight I was able to just fully embrace it and allow the fight to come to me.”
There’s been no shortage of older fighters coming back and getting wrecked in painfully viral manners. Frank Mir was recently mauled by Kubrat Pulev, and while Tyron Woodley wasn’t returning from retirement his faceplant finish at the hands of Jake Paul will resound through the Internet for years to come.
None of that happened to Evans, though. And following the fight, Eagle FC owner, Khabib Nurmagomedov, said they’d be talking to Evans about signing him for a few more fights if he wanted. And Evans sounded interested, although he also seemed like he got what he wanted out of this single fight.
“As of right now I’ll say yeah, I feel really good and I feel like that was a good fight,” he said. “But I feel like there’s areas I have to improve. I do understand that I’m 42 years old, but it’s a mental thing at the same time. I want to test myself, but at the same time I want to be smart about how I do it. This is a young man’s sport, it’s a young man’s sport in so many different ways. I’m gonna be smart and I’m going to think about it, talk to my family and coaches.
“I have a lot of things going on outside of this,” he finished. “This was just something for me ... to end my career the way I did my career, it didn’t feel good inside. To have a win like this and go in there and face myself like I did, it felt like I faced myself in ways I wasn’t able to before.”
For complete Eagle FC 44: “Kharitonov vs. Spong” results and play-by-play, click HERE.