Chael Sonnen and Rashad Evans don't need to be reminded that they're getting up there in age.
They're seasoned vets. The writing is on the wall. There are only so many good years left for Sonnen, who is exceptionally experienced at 36, and "Suga" Evans, who, at 34, has also lost two of his past three fights.
Sonnen, known for his boastful nature, and Evans square off in a "friendly" light heavyweight duel Saturday night prior to UFC 167's main event between welterweights Georges St-Pierre and Johny Hendricks at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Could it be one of Evans' final bouts?
It's a similar story that lingers throughout the world of sports. Whether it's on the mat, in the octagon, in the ring or on the field, athletes just have to realize when it's time to hang 'em up. Evans is coming to grips with that.
As for Sonnen, well, retirement talk traditionally follows a loss or less-than-stellar outing. But his approach is very different than his friend's take. Sonnen would probably rather leave on a gurney than take a bow.
He has critics, win or lose. Some get satisfaction by presenting opposition. The anti-Chael contingent is strong.
Saturday night should provide Sonnen and Evans with an opportunity to explore their futures. Their thoughts may be interrupted by the constant pounding they're sure to receive, but they'll probably have a good idea of what's next by the end of the night.
Competitors have to fuel a fire.
When fuel's running low, it's difficult to imagine life years down the line. At that point, a day-to-day mode of operation could emerge and shadow realistic goals with clouds of doubt.
Playing it by ear and listening to his body and other outside influences is the choice for Evans, who said the following about his plans during a press conference (via BJPenn.com):
I ask myself that all the time. I was in a place in my career where it just wasn’t fun for me anymore. I made it through that rough patch, because after you’ve seen everything, seen behind the curtain of Oz, it kind of changes the way you feel about it. By that I mean, you see how the whole system works, you see the politics in it, and to not be bogged down by the politics of the sport and still keeping your competitive nature, it was hard for me at first.”
But now, I’ve got a different mindset when it comes to competing. I’ve got a different mindset when it comes to just dealing with the politics of the sport and everything else. It’s helped me get a different appreciation for it. I want to keep on fighting as long as my body allows me to. As long as God gives me the ability to keep on fighting.
As the UFC's No. 4-ranked welterweight, Evans (23-3-1) may succumb to Father Time faster than some expect. His takedown style invites contact. A man can only take so many collisions before it's time to pay the toll.
Odds of a shot at Jon Jones depend on the outcome of Saturday night in Vegas. And it could be the final time Evans hits the championship trail.
With an impressive resume that includes victories over Forrest Griffin and Chuck Liddell, Evans is favored to beat Sonnen. That's the public perception, at least.
Sonnen is a firecracker waiting to be ignited. But Evans is just as volatile; his unpredictable style should complement Sonnen's attack.
Evans recently suggested that (via MMA Mania) Sonnen's plans beyond Saturday take away from the leading up to UFC 167. That could play to his advantage.
Catching an opponent looking ahead has its benefits. Should he win, the hype wouldn't have mattered either way. Evans' career is at a crossroads.
Sonnen Follows Suit
Essentially, Saturday night's tangle means as much for Sonnen as it does for Evans. Both men want to advance their careers. Sonnen had a chance at dethroning Jones, but his wildly entertaining ride didn't include a stop in the winner's circle.
Who has most to gain Saturday?
There's nothing like a second chance—or a ninth, whatever—at glory, right? Sonnen's back in the spotlight, ready to strut his stuff for millions of pay-per-view patrons and those in-house at the MGM Grand.
But it's not a perfect scenario for Sonnen, who said the following about his pairing with Evans to Adam Hill of the Las Vegas Review-Journal:
It’s not the fight either one of us wanted, but we’re both leaders in the locker room with the guys in the back, and we can’t set an example that you get to pick and choose your fights. You’ve got to compete against everybody
Nevertheless, the Sonnen Train keeps going. The "Gangster of West Linn" reportedly has future fights booked and plans to coach against Wanderlei Silva in TUF 3, a Brazilian adaption of The Ultimate Fighter.
That's one of the glaring differences between Sonnen and Evans. One appears ready for whatever, while the other hopes that his body holds up well enough to keep MMA a part of his life.
Evans' situation looks more like a must-win in life, not in the octagon. Sonnen's state of affairs centers around the move after next, which has been typical throughout his career. It's all about promotion for Sonnen, while it's all about maintaining health and well-being for Evans.
Follow Bleacher Report's Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81