The villain walked into the room wearing a suit jacket and dress shirt. He was clean, smiled and spoke confidently. His words were softer now, kinder.
He wore a bandage of some sort covering his potentially dislocated right thumb. The price of victory.
The hero, the “people’s champ,” was among the first to arrive. He had lost. He didn’t dish out any “Punishment” as his shirt read. His eyes were hidden behind black sunglasses, which did its best to hide a bruise on his upper cheekbone.
Rashad Evans had defeated Tito Ortiz less than an hour ago. It was a second round TKO that did Ortiz in. The huge first round takedown may have had something to do with the result too.
Evans was showered in boos by the Philadelphia crowd at the Wells Fargo Center on his way to the cage. The announcer boasted, this is “Rashad Evans 2.0,” back and rejuvenated after not fighting for 14 months.
The 31-year old vowed to never do that again. Time is ticking on his transition to hero.
But here he sat, calm, after exchanging fighting words with Ortiz in the few weeks leading up to the real fight. He said he was joking. That’s not really him. He just says those things for show.
Ortiz had written in his blog on ESPN.com that the layoff had left Evans rusty and mentally weak. Evans seemed to take offense.
“I’m so happy that he said that I’m weaker for this fight, or that I’m weaker and he believes he’s stronger,” Evans said in a video posted on ESPN.com.
“And I’m glad that he’s [underestimating me], because that means I’m going to whoop his [expletive] worse than I ever thought it would whoop it before.”
Now Evans said he had all of the respect in the world for Ortiz, who took the fight on short notice. After the light heavyweight champ Jon Jones and Phil Davis both backed out with injuries. Ortiz gave the fans quite the show. At one point, he was inches from getting Evans into a submission. Evans evaded and went on the attack.
“I took my time with it,” Evans casually explained. “That’s the one thing I wanted to do. I know I hadn’t been out there for a while. I knew he was going to be pounding, trying to get at me kinda early. So I kinda felt his energy, knew that he was going to come at me fast. But I wanted to make sure that I didn’t rush into anything. And I took the time to set up my stand-up so everything went right.”
The villain doesn’t see himself as such. He’s now lined up to face a bigger villain in his eyes, Jones, who first has to fight Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, to defend his title.
“I would love to get the [title] from Jones,” Evans said. “Because I would love to be the first one to beat him, like really beat him. He’s so cocky. So cocky. If you think I’m cocky, he’s real cocky. He’s for real cocky. I’m like on the camera, joking around, cocky. He’s like, go-to-sleep, praising himself, cocky.
“I would love to teach him a lesson.”
Against Ortiz, Evans didn’t look out of shape and mentally weak. He looked in tip-top shape and unflinchingly focused.
“I’m a big believer in ‘ring rust,’ ” said UFC President Dana White. “Rashad [expletive] up my theory tonight a little bit. He didn’t look rusty at all.”
Ortiz had been sitting on his couch, basking in the glory of his first win since 2006 last month when White called. He needed someone to fight Evans in Philly. Evans had about two weeks to prepare to fight the villain, and it showed.
“I take my hat off to Rashad,” said Ortiz. “He didn’t run away. He stood there and fought with me. And I fought back. And I gave it my all.”
Now Ortiz will get that rest he was planning on enjoying this summer. Evans crippled his comeback momentum, which was built by his victory over Ryan Bader in UFC 132. Now, a tired Ortiz vowed to take the next month off to relax. After that he plans to keep fighting.
Evans will keep working too. The villain wants what the hero has.
“I’m a fighter,” Ortiz said. “When I get in that octagon, it’s like an animal in a cage. I love it.”
“I’ve surpassed things that I’ve never imagined. I’m a legend in the sport. I feel like I paved the way for a lot of these fighters that are up here to get what they got.”
The villain lamented: “The fans have to have — somebody’s gotta be the villain,” said Evans. “You know, it’s just the way things work. And I don’t mind being the villain, because I know I’m not a villain in life.
Here are the results of the other main card bouts: Three of the other four fights also ended in TKOs, all of which came in the first round.
• Young Canadian, Rory MacDonald, made quick work of Mike Pyle, who walked to the octagon with the Rocky theme song playing.
• Consta Philippou won his first career UFC fight in the one fight that lasted the distance. Him and Jorge Rivera engaged in a grueling chess match inside the octagon and Philippou won on a split-decision.
• Dennis Hallman received a bonus from Dana White for never wearing a yellow speedo-like bottom again. He tried to match the showmanship of the winner of this welterweight bout, Brian Ellerbe, who had an arrow shaved out of his chest hair.
• Vitor Belfort made quick work of Yoshihiro Akiyama in the middleweight bout, delivering a flurry of punches with Akiyama down, to earn the TKO and knockout of the night.
Tim Rohan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @TimRohan on Twitter.