“It’s been really good to help the younger generation to get an understanding of the historical part of where we come from as a race of people and understanding why we have the rights that we do have now and what those people who put themselves on the front line had to give up in order to get what we take for granted so much,” said Evans.

“Now these kids of this generation are starting to feel it themselves, and even for myself, it’s something that I’ve been feeling. It gives a whole new respect for the pioneers of the human rights movement because when you’re talking about laying it all on the line and not knowing how you’re gonna come out of it, that’s a mentality, still to this day, I don’t think a lot of people have. They don’t have that kind of grit. It gives a nod and an appreciation to the ones who came before us that really stood for something.”

Evans has his place in that history. Sure, some might say it’s “only” sports, but sports are an integral part of everyday life for so many, and if not for a Rashad Evans, maybe there wouldn’t be some kid wanting to follow in his footsteps in order to make his or her mark in the world through MMA. That’s important. And he knows it.

“I’m happy that I was able to pave the way and to be able to show that being Black and being African American wasn’t such a stereotypical thing,” he said. “We come in all forms and we talk all kinds of different ways and we have a lot of diversity in our own ranks. I wanted to show that being Black or being African American was more than a stereotype. And that’s one thing about the sport that it was able to help me do. It was able to help me transcend those stereotypes that really keep people divided.”

UFC is proud to celebrate Black History Month by acknowledging the achievements of African American and Black UFC athletes throughout our history. During February, UFC will highlight the personal stories of these athletes, past and present, while celebrating their significance in promoting and growing UFC and the sport of mixed martial arts.