Bellator’s latest acquisition, the former UFC light-heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida, spoke exclusively to us here at Pundit Arena about his promotional debut and his plans for the future.
Few names are as synonymous with the sport as Machida’s.
From the moment he crane-kicked the legendary Randy Couture into retirement to his title-winning KO of Rashad Evans, Lyoto was front-and-centre through the time described as the golden period of mixed martial arts.
Making the move to Bellator at this point in his career has been seen as a good move for the Brazilian – and with fights at both middleweight and light-heavyweight apparently on the cards, he seems genuinely excited to make a statement in his promotional debut.
Speaking to us here at Pundit Arena MMA, Lyoto explained how the deal was an easy one to make and how even now, at 40, he is always looking to adapt and improve his game and overall knowledge of the martial arts.
“I am so excited to move to Bellator. I had the opportunity after my last fight in the UFC and they let my contract run. I went and spoke to Scott Coker and he made me a great offer, I couldn’t refuse.
“I am hungry to learn new stuff. I try to create new moves, to adapt my game. I like to learn and because of that I am still fighting – with a lot of fights under my belt.
“Of course, one of the reasons I moved to Bellator was to compete in both categories – to fight at 205lbs and 185lbs – I believe there are very difficult opponents in both categories so I have to work hard and take advantage as much as I can.”
Seen as something akin to a complex puzzle to solve due to his unorthodox blend of Shotokan karate and MMA striking – Machida has been in there with some of the greatest fighters to ever do it.
His resumé includes names such as Shogun Rua, Jon Jones, Tito Ortiz, Rampage Jackson, Rashad Evans, Dan Henderson, Randy Couture, Yoel Romero, Chris Weidman, Vitor Belfort, Luke Rockhold and even BJ Penn. The experience Lyoto will bring with him to his Bellator 213 showdown against Rafael Carvalho cannot be understated.
According to him, his time spent in there with the best of the best will give him the edge when December 15 comes around.
“I believe it’s the perfect matchup because we like to exchange punches and kicks. He’s a former Bellator champion who comes from a very good school in Brazil but I believe I have more experience, more tools and techniques that I can use.
“My last fight I had a great camp and I believe I set myself back on the right track and I had an outstanding performance and I just feel very good.
“The only thing I can see is my hand raised and me celebrating with my team.”
And while it is never wise to look past your next opponent, Machida’s 2014 victory over the current Bellator middleweight champion Gegard Mousasi is something that motivates him to challenge for the belt.
The pair went to war in a Fight of the Night-winning showdown back when both fought under the UFC banner. Since moving to Bellator, Mousasi actually won the title by defeating the man Lyoto will take on next in Carvalho and in the time since their first meeting – he has amassed an 11-2 record.
“Every year everybody evolves and Mousasi is no different. You can evolve, but you cannot change that much. I have a win over Mousasi in 2014.
“Of course, we have both evolved but that fight is going to happen soon in the future but I have a very hard task in front me so I cannot take that for granted.”
Lyoto Machida will return on December 15 in the co-main event of Bellator 213 in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena