What wasn’t natural was seeing the 5-11 Evans in the same Ultimate Fighter house as skyscrapers like the 6-7 Imes, 6-4 Dan Christison, and 6-3 Kerry Schall and Rob MacDonald. Needless to say, Evans was seen as the underdog; something he felt immediately. So why does he feel that he was picked for the show?
“Personality maybe,” he surmises. “I really don’t know. I guess it’s not for my fighting ability because they didn’t think I could fight anyways. (Chuckles) Maybe it was to have a little bit more of a diverse group. But a lot of those guys were huge, and maybe they were looking to see me get smashed because I was so small.”
The first few days weren’t easy either, and a conflict (later resolved) with one of the coaches, Matt Hughes, added to the turmoil.
“When I first got there, I didn’t have a good first couple of days as far as evaluations and everything, so I didn’t know how everything was going to turn out,” said Evans. “They had the heavy favorite and you could just feel the favoritism among the fighters. Some of the people thought such and such was gonna win and everybody kinda catered to that, so it was surprising.”
What was more surprising was that with each week’s episode, the heavyweight favorites started to fall by the wayside, and left standing was Evans, as he scored unanimous decision victories over Tom Murphy, Mike Whitehead, and in the semifinals, Keith Jardine.
“I surprised a lot of people,” said Evans. “A lot of people thought that I didn’t have any talent at all. See, I always had confidence in myself, but the better I did, people would say ‘Wow’ and they just couldn’t believe it. I knew my own potential, but they didn’t know, so it was a big surprise to them.”
And once Evans had the win over Jardine in the bank, the only thing left to worry about was keeping his mouth shut about the results of the show.
“That’s been tough because the last couple of episodes have had people on edge, wanting to know what happened, and they call me with their own method of trying to get what happened out of me,” he laughs. “They’ll say, ‘Oh, so you fight such and such next week,’ and they’re totally guessing, but then they hope I slip up and give them some kind of idea of what’s happening.”
But Evans stayed strong, and now the entire country knows that he is just one victory away from earning a UFC contract as the heavyweight Ultimate Fighter. He just has to climb one more mountain – a 6-7 one named Imes.