Rashad Evans went from being a popular team leader at Greg Jackson’s gym in Albuquerque to a lone wolf with Mike Van Arsdale and loose change in Florida.
Betrayal, as it turns out, is a pretty strong motivator -- Evans has changed his whole approach to fight preparation. As such, when he steps in the cage against Tito Ortiz at UFC 133 in Philadelphia, we’ll be seeing a product of one-on-one, tailor-made training. It’s a departure from what Evans was doing at Jackson’s, where he trained happily as part of a collective.
And it’s the former collegiate wrestler-cum-fighter Van Arsdale -- who used to coach at Jackson’s, as well -- that’s doing the tailoring.
“It’s almost like a little mom and pop restaurant that’s got the best food,” Van Arsdale told ESPN.com of his Imperial Athletics gym in Boca Raton. “That’s what we got going on down here, it’s a mom and pop. We’re small. We’re not big. We’re not some big name with all these UFC fighters.”
Van Arsdale was a teammate of Evans’ going back to 2005, and he’s been coaching him since 2006. He and Evans have maintained a solid rapport over the years, and Van Arsdale was with Evans the first time he fought Ortiz in 2007 at UFC 73. That was a fight that Ortiz would have won had he not been docked a point for holding the fence in the third round. After Phil Davis was forced to back out of the big headlining spot against Evans, the opportunity fell to Ortiz, who declined, thought it over, then signed on.
This was good news for the Evans’ camp, according to Van Arsdale, and he says you can expect a different outcome from the first fight because his charge has a different mentality, a better ideology and the benefit of experience. Oh, and he’s healthy.
“Every person has different needs,” Van Arsdale says. “I think Rashad at the time was doing the same workout that the team was doing, which I think wasn’t the right prescription for his body type and what he needed to get ready for that particular fight. Instead of running, he probably should have been wrestling; instead of pounding with the legs, he probably should have been practicing some maneuvers with the standup.
“What happened was he got severe shin splints and an injury to his thigh. But, he kept quiet and fought [Ortiz] anyway, without a camp. He might have had two good weeks and the rest of the time he sat around barely making it through practice.”
Though it took a minute to get used to, Van Arsdale says that he likes the idea of Ortiz/Evans II, particularly with the improbable “feel good” vibe that Ortiz has fashioned after beating Ryan Bader a couple of weeks ago. He also appreciates that the “Huntington Beach Bad Boy” has a history of fights that are compelling just for having his name on the marquee.
“We’re happy it’s Ortiz,” he says. “Of course, we would like Phil Davis to still be there, but he’s not, so we had to take what we could get and Ortiz had the nerve and the confidence to put his name on the paper to fight Rashad, so I’m really happy that somebody stepped up to the plate and took the fight on short notice.”