It's an odd world when a former champion loses two fights in a row—one of which was another shot at the title—and somehow talk of his retirement starts being bantered about in MMA.
Rashad Evans was caught off guard recently when he heard his name being mentioned alongside retirement. Certainly, Evans was aware that his last performance against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira was nothing to be proud of, but still it marked only his third loss in professional MMA.
He's not sure why people are asking about retirement, but Evans is happy to shut down those rumors because he's not going anywhere.
"That is kind of crazy to me too because it's like I've only lost three fights," Evans told Bleacher Report on Wednesday. "Some people have like 10 losses, 12 losses, and I've only lost three fights and people want me to retire? It also says people set a high standard on the level which I'm supposed to compete at. So I really can't get mad at that, but I just know that I have to let my level rise and not to be in the position where I lost one fight then in two or three fights I need to retire.
"It's funny to me also because it seems like I just started fighting the other day. Just seems like I just got into the sport the other day and it goes to show how much time has passed by."
Evans won't deny that his last performance was something he wants to forget. It was billed as his chance to get back in the race for a potential title shot down the road, but instead he came out flat and couldn't muster the skills to get past Nogueira in a fairly lackluster fight.
For Evans, it wasn't an easy loss to recover from, despite having no physical ailments that needed mending. Evans' problem was from the mental side of things, as he had to go back and watch a fight he had no desire to relive.
"I really let myself down bad in the last fight and it's something that took me a while personally to shake off," said Evans. "As any competitor knows, you've almost got to have a short memory when competing. The more you hang onto it, the more you drag onto it, in a negative sense you don't move past it. I just need to get back to what I do best. There comes a time when you learn so many different things and you try to develop a style and you try to stay ahead of the curve, but sometimes you can just get yourself out of what is best for you. That's what I feel like I've done. I've gotten out of what's absolutely best for me in the pursuit of trying to gain that edge."
What Evans did best for many years was integrate a slick boxing style with his background in wrestling. That game will get a boost under new coach Kenny Monday, an Olympic gold medalist in wrestling, who will join the Blackzilians as the new wrestling coach next week.
Following the fight with Henderson—win, lose or draw—Evans might be put in a whole new situation as he considers moving down to middleweight. Evans has toyed with the idea for the past year, but now it seems like it's getting closer to reality.
"It's definitely something that interests me because after you run the round robin with all the fighters and I fought him, and he fought him, it just kind of becomes stagnant. A chance to fight new competition at a different weight class, that is appealing to me," Evans stated. "I can't lie and say that's not appealing to me.
"It's a chance for me to see if I can do it again. See if I can rise to the top in another weight class. That challenge is definitely appealing to me outside of all the potential matchups that the fans get to see me have now. It's definitely something that I will look into after this fight whether I win or lose, just for the fact that I'm midway through my career and I'm thinking maybe I could just try another weight class and maybe I could mix it up. Because when you're doing something for so long, no matter how much you love it, it does become kind of stagnant."
Evans is excited about the fight with Henderson because it's a chance to face a legend of MMA history, but he is quick to point out that the options beyond this fight at 205 pounds are limited. He is interested in potential rematches with Lyoto Machida and Jon Jones, who account for two of his three losses in MMA, and maybe finally getting the chance to face someone like Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, but outside of that, Evans doesn't see much left for him in the light heavyweight division.
"That would be the only three matchups that would really be interesting for me at 205," Evans commented about those trio of fights. "The idea of 185 does sound appealing because of those new matchups. 205 has been my home for so long it does feel kind of weird not to compete at that weight class. That's one thing that if I was to make that choice, I would really have to think about that."
Evans' mind will only contemplate one thing right now, and that's beating Dan Henderson at UFC 161. After that fight and hopefully a win, Evans will look to what's next and potential new life at 185 pounds.
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report, and all quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.