Rashad Evans goes back a while with Kamaru Usman, to the days when he accompanied him with the Blackzilians in South Florida. That’s why it was hard to watch Leon Edwards knock out Usman at UFC 278.
And made worse by the fact that the UFC Hall of Famer witnessed the shocking outcome as they sat in the front row next to Usman’s family at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City.
Less than 48 hours later, Evans opened up Monday about the “very traumatic” experience on “Morning Kombat”.
“It was incredible to be there because I’m sitting next to his family and his daughter next to me,” Evans said. “When all that happens, you just hear this scream, and it was just really traumatic. For me, being like a brother to Kamaru, just watching him go down like that, I just got really sick.”
Evans’ real-time reaction, along with a large number of UFC fighters sitting on the ground, was captured on camera. The video summed up the disbelief of Edwards, who trailed 39-37 on all three judges’ scorecards and grabbed victory from the jaws of defeat by delivering a vicious head kick with 56 seconds left in the fifth round to take the lead. UFC Welterweight Title.
Evans believed that Usman would win at UFC 278, but he couldn’t ignore what he was feeling either.
“I didn’t think he would lose, but sometimes — like when your boyfriend or your family is arguing — you feel uneasy,” Evans said. “And I had an uneasy feeling that I couldn’t shake off. When that kick happened, those worst feelings, those worst things, those worst thoughts were realized in an instant. It was devastating.”
The loss was Usman’s first in 16 UFC appearances and only the second of his career. Not since his second professional fight in May 2013, had Usman tasted defeat.
Usman (20-2 MMA, 15-1 UFC) did not speak to reporters after UFC 278 when he was transported to a local hospital. Apart from a few posts on social media, nothing has been heard from him at the time of writing.
Evans traveled back to Florida with Usman on a private jet on Sunday and came out of their conversation feeling good about the now former champion moving forward.
“I asked how he was doing. He said, ‘You know, I feel very blessed.’ And it was something that surprised me, because I didn’t expect those words to come out of his mouth,” Evans said. “But he said, ‘I feel very blessed because last night didn’t go the way I wanted, and it was a very twisted thing that happened.’ He said, ‘But I’m happy. And I feel blessed to have the opportunity to show everyone once again how amazing I am.” And he said, “I’ll show my daughter what it means to fall and not have everything you want, but then get up and go on.”
“When he said that to me, I got chills because that’s a perspective you take once you’ve accepted it. … I feel like he planted the seeds for a big return.”
To learn more about the map, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 278.