Former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans suddenly finds himself out of the UFC light heavyweight title picture.
Evans has been out of action since last May when he defeated Quinton “Rampage” Jackson to become the number one contender for Mauricio “Shogun” Rua’s light heavyweight championship. Evans had opted to wait for Rua to recover from knee surgery instead of risking his title shot, and has sat on the sidelines for the past eight months. In a bitter twist of irony, it was confirmed yesterday that Evans will give up his title shot after blowing out his knee in practice this past Wednesday.
“We were doing a wrestling drill and someone came and blindsided me from the side and took out my knee,” Evans said of his injury on ESPN’s MMA Live following UFC 126. “I’ve got a second or third degree grade sprained MCL. They said I’d be out four to six weeks – maybe longer.
“I knew right away once it happened [that] it was a wrap. I felt and I heard it pop. Right when it happens, it’s like everything you put into camp, everything you gave up — especially me, because I was out for so long and I was waiting for Shogun to get his knee better and then ironically, I’m the one who hurt my knee.”
Evans noted that the injury occurred earlier this week on what was supposed to be “an easy day.”
“It wasn’t the guy I was grappling with, it was somebody in another group that just ran into me,” said Evans. “It was supposed to be an easy day. Those are the breaks I guess.”
The UFC didn’t wait long to find a replacement. After Jon Jones vanquished previously undefeated Ryan Bader via second round submission last night, Joe Rogan informed Jones that he would be filling in for Evans to face Rua for the title at UFC 128 on March 19. Evans revealed that he is happy that Jones got the shot and expressed his support for his fellow training partner.
“I’m happy for Jones, I think it’s a great fight for him,” Evans stated. “I think Jones is gonna smash Rua.
“Training with Jones in practice, he’s one of the best guys I’ve ever trained with. The level he’s gotten to so fast is scary and alarming. He’s one of those guys at the gym, he’ll be the first one there and the last one to leave. Every single time I came to the gym, two or three times a day, he was already there. He’s hungry, he wants it, so I’m glad if it’s going to be someone to step into my place, I’m glad it’s him.”
While Evans is happy for Jones, his career is now in limbo for the time being. Evans said that he planned on taking enough time for the injury to properly heal before deciding on his next move.
“I’m going to give my knee some time to heal,” he said. “I don’t want to rush myself and then get an aggravated injury. I’ve been out for awhile and now I’m anxious to fight. Now I’ve got to find the fighter in me and be patient with myself and know that my time is coming. One door closes and another one will open, and I’ve just got to keep my eyes open and see what that is and see what happens from here.
UFC 128 will take place from the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ on March 19, 2011.