Since his arrival in the sport as an original cast member of The Ultimate Fighter 2, Rashad Evans has always seemed to find himself cast as the underdog.
He was an underdog in every one of his fights on the show, including the finale, yet he won them all. He went on to serve as the underdog going into fights against Stephan Bonnar, Tito Ortiz, Chuck Liddell, Forrest Griffin and Rampage Jackson, yet didn't lose any of those fights.
You might think that Evans is tired of playing the underdog role, but it's a role he's worn his entire life.
"The fact that I'm always the underdog, I don't know," Evans told MMA Fight Corner presented by FiveKnuckles.com. "I must not look like I can do anything because anytime I try to do something everyone's always like, 'Nah, he can't do it.' But that's been my whole life. I've never been the biggest guy or anything like that.
"Growing up, I would always hang out with my brothers friends and they were all three years older than me and I was definitely the smallest in that group so I was always the runt. I guess that runt mentality stayed with me until I became an adult. I think my drive comes from my upbringing. I had a pretty tough upbringing growing up and I had a lot of brothers and sisters who I was competitive with. We had to compete for my mother's attention and stuff like that so I think that's where a lot of my drive comes from."
Evans will certainly shed his underdog status when he steps in the cage opposite Tito Ortiz next Saturday. The fight will be their second after the two squared off to a draw at UFC 73 in the summer of 2007. That Rashad Evans, however, is a much different fighter from the one who stood across the cage from Ortiz four years ago.
"I was a puppy when I fought Tito Ortiz the first time, and I still was overcoming a lot of confidence issues that I had in my own performances," Evans said. "Feeling like maybe I didn't belong [in the UFC], or maybe I do. My toe was in the water on it. You know, just thinking maybe these guys are right about me and my confidence wasn't where it is now. That alone can boost your performance up.
"But beside that, just what I've learned and being a veteran in the game and having those big fights has definitely seasoned me. That experience has taught me so much, and honestly I don't think Tito will be able to stand it. And I'm not saying that to be cocky, but I don't think he stands a chance."
Another fighter he sees facing long odds in the near future is his old nemesis Rampage Jackson when he takes on Evans' former training partner Jon Jones at UFC 135 this September. Evans has the unique perspective of having seen both fighters up close, Jones in training, and Rampage at UFC 114.
So how does he see the fight going down?
"Jon Jones is gonna smash Rampage," Evans said. "He's gonna smash him. Rampage gotta tighten up a lot of things man. He's just so loose. He's so loose and so wild. And I think that Rampage has got to really work on two things. Most importantly his footwork. His footwork is atrocious. He has to work on his wrestling and...