Evans expects Machida at UFC 98
Despite every assurance made during Saturday night’s UFC 96 pay-per-view broadcast, UFC light heavyweight champ Rashad Evans doesn’t believe Quinton “Rampage” Jackson will be standing across the Octagon to face him at UFC 98 on May 23.
“As I learned, ‘Rampage’ might need time off,” Evans told the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Beatdown” show on Monday. “It’ll probably be Lyoto Machida, but I haven’t gotten a confirmation on that.”
Jackson, who earned a hard-fought decision over Evans’ teammate Keith Jardine in the main event on Saturday, told reporters afterward that he needed time to evaluate the May title bout offered to him that night before he’d give his answer.
The 30-year old Memphis, Tenn., native lost the belt to Forrest Griffin at UFC 86 last July. Evans then took it from Griffin at UFC 92 in December.
Tensions rose on Saturday night when Evans (13-0-1) entered the cage to trade barbs with Jackson seconds after his victory. Evans said he knew then that Jackson (30-7) might not be up to snuff for a May encounter.
“I don’t know. I’ve just got that feeling,” said Evans. “Just listening to him when we were in the ring talking he was kind of like, ‘Yeah man you’re lucky I wasn’t 100 percent’ and he started making excuses and I was thinking like it sounds like an excuse-fest is about to happen, so I know he ain’t going to take no fight with me. He’s making excuses now.”
Evans was actually surprised the standoff became as heated as fast as it did.
“I didn’t expect any of that, man,” said Evans. “I was just going to do the face-off and what not but then he started talking trash. I wasn’t even in the mood to play or joke around, I just saw one of my best friends lose a fight which I had him winning until the last 10 seconds. I see the hurt in [Jardine’s] eyes and he’s so upset and he’s disappointed and I feel, like, bad for him. Then this dude is bumpin’ his gums at me, and honestly, I really wanted to punch him in his face, but I knew that wasn’t the right time to do that so I just tried to stay as composed as possible because I don’t like to talk trash. Whenever I got into a street fight I never talked -- I just hit. I never liked to be in someone’s face that close just talking.”
There is a certain double standard in the war of words leading up to the Evans-Jackson showdown that hasn’t escaped the 29-year-old champion. Evans consistently catches heat for his antics in and out of the cage, while Jackson seems to be applauded for it.
“You know what, I can’t understand it either,” said Evans. “I can’t understand it either man. I try not to. There was a time where it really bothered me and ate at me and I was like, ‘I don’t understand.’ I’m in the arena and everyone is booing me. And that’s so funny because everyone is in here booing at me, but I just spent about two hours signing autographs. So who the hell is booing at me, you know what I’m saying? Who’s booing at me? It’s just so contradictory to everyone that comes to speak to me. I always treat everyone with respect. Yet everyone still boos. They don’t like me. But that’s OK. Everybody has a cross to bear in life and maybe that’s my cross to bear. I don’t have to be popular in life, as long as I know who I am then that’s OK.”
Evans will probably have other things to ponder in short turn, most likely the conundrum that is Machida (14-0), a fighter whose style perplexes opponents more often than not.
“The kid’s been phenomenal,” said Evans. “He’s been better than phenomenal. He’s been looking better every fight. But that’s the fight business. That’s the fun part about a fight is the fact that you go in there with an opponent that sometimes seems insurmountable. But then you figure it out and that makes the victory that much sweeter. With that said, there may be some kinks in his armor that I have yet to see that I can exploit when I look at the tapes more closely. Nobody’s unbeatable. Machida’s been looking slicker than I don’t know what, but everybody has a weakness even if you do look slick as oil. Everyone has a weakness.”
Evans said he’s a lock to expose weaknesses on May 23, though if it will be Jackson or Machida’s shortcomings remains to be seen.