LAS VEGAS -- Rashad Evans was giving his acceptance speech at the UFC Hall of Fame ceremony Friday night when an earthquake rippled through the Palms Resort Casino. The confused audience laughed. Some screamed and moved toward the exits. Evans paused for a few seconds for the shaking to stop. Then, he continued, not knowing the severity of the temblor.
"That's me bringing that heat," Evans said with a nervous laugh.
The earthquake was of 7.1 magnitude and centered about 200 miles west of Las Vegas in Ridgecrest, California. The ceremony continued on as scheduled.
Evans, a New York native, is a former UFC light heavyweight champion and was part of some of the UFC's most memorable rivalries against the likes of Jon Jones and Quinton Jackson.
Also inducted Friday night were former UFC middleweight champions Michael Bisping and Rich Franklin. Bisping and Evans will be part of the "modern wing" of the Hall, while Franklin will be part of the "pioneer wing." A 2009 fight between Diego Sanchez and Clay Guida was inducted as well.
Evans, 39, announced his retirement in June 2018. In addition to winning the UFC light heavyweight title, "Suga" won "The Ultimate Fighter 2" heavyweight crown in 2005. One of the most important things of his career, Evans said, is giving back to the next generation. Evans, a 14-year MMA veteran, has acted as a mentor for current fighters such as UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman.
"It sounds kind of crazy, but I guess [the best part is] just hearing how much you meant to other people, because no one gets to smell their flowers while they're alive," Evans told ESPN. "It's good to be able to feel appreciated and to be able to know that your efforts and the impact in the sport meant something."
Bisping had planned to have a retirement fight, but he announced his retirement from the UFC due to an eye injury in May 2018. Being inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame was a significant moment for Bisping, a pioneer for MMA in the United Kingdom. It was also a chance for him to officially say goodbye.
"I was gonna take one more fight," Bisping told ESPN. "I had no business doing that. I've got one eye and my other eye is messing up as well. I shouldn't be doing that. But I was still gonna fight, because I wanted to get some closure to my career. I wanted to thank the fans. I wanted to do the whole thing -- putting the gloves down in the Octagon. You romanticize it in your head just the way you want to go out and I never got to do that. So at least this way now I get some closure on my career. I get to have a speech and thank the people that need thanking."
Bisping, 40, was the first British UFC champion and has 20 UFC victories, tied with Georges St-Pierre for third on the all-time list. When he retired, "The Count" had the most fights in UFC history (29), a mark that has since been surpassed by Donald Cerrone. Bisping, a 13-year MMA veteran, won "The Ultimate Fighter 3" light heavyweight tournament.
Franklin, 44, was not able to make the ceremony due to his commitments as an executive with ONE Championship in Asia. The Ohio native was a key figure in the UFC's jump to the mainstream as a former high-school math teacher who left his job to fight in mixed martial arts. Franklin was the middleweight champion in 2005 and 2006. He has not fought since 2012.
"It truly is rare for someone to live out their childhood dream," Franklin said in a video message. "When I think about what it took to get here, I think about sacrifice. ... It truly is a culmination of the people around me to make my career possible."
Guida joked onstage that he saw Sanchez in the back and they were about to go at it again like old times. Their fight at The Ultimate Fighter 9 Finale, in this very building at Palms, was the best of 2009. Sanchez won by split decision in a bloody, high-intensity affair. At one point in the bout, Sanchez dropped Guida with a head kick and Guida popped right back up.
"That fight out of all my fights, I've gotta say, was the one that belongs in [the Hall of Fame]," Guida said. "It's an honor to be in there with Diego and go in together."
Sanchez actually fights at UFC 239 on Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena against Michael Chiesa. He said in his speech that he wants to "focus on Michael Chiesa and the beatdown he's going to get tomorrow."
Bisping, the last to give a speech Friday night, definitely will not be fighting again, he said. Right now, he's working on many things, including a documentary and book about his life, acting projects, his popular "Believe You Me" podcast and being a commentator for UFC fights on ESPN.
It was an injury to his left eye in a 2017 knockout loss to Kelvin Gastelum that made Bisping retire. Bisping's right eye was damaged for years and is now nearly blind. The legendary fighter doesn't talk much about it, but said he's not sure how he managed to win so often with only one good eye.
"It wasn't easy," Bisping said. "I used to use my jab a lot and then my depth perception went. I'd just be jabbing fresh air. Once I touched the person, then my brain knew how to gauge the distance. The brain is a very fascinating thing. It was hard. A lot of adjustments to be made.
"I never dreamt of quitting, but I look back now and I think, 'Wow, what was that guy thinking?' He was crazy. He was a f---ing idiot. It all worked out."