With his first light heavyweight title defense just days away, Lyoto Machida welcomed us inside Blackhouse Gym to get a peek at final preparations for his UFC 104 bout with Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, which will take place just up the road from here at Staples Center on Saturday night.
Upon entering the gym, which is tucked away inside a warehouse in an industrial area of Gardena, we ran into none other than the King of MMA himself, Anderson Silva. With the customary Kool-Aid grin plastered on his face, “The Spider” was a host of sorts on this day, greeting everyone coming to see his teammate.
After a brief wait, we were introduced to Team Machida, led by Ed Soares (Machida and Silva’s manager), along with Lyoto, his father, Yoshizo, and brothers.
The pride this family carries with them was clear as they lined up in front of us ready to take questions from the firing squad. Lyoto, proud that he was able to provide for his family and share his success with them, and his father, proud of the man he raised to become not only a great champion, but a great person as well.
“Team Machida has always taught the discipline of karate and tried to make everyone a better man first,” Yoshizo Machida said with translating help from Soares. “I wanted to make sure Lyoto worked hard in school and got a good education.”
While Lyoto was never forced into being a fighter, it became second nature to him growing up in Brazil as he spent the majority of his childhood in his father’s gym.
“I could tell when he was about 12 or 13 that he had special abilities,” the elder Machida continued. “When we went to Japan to compete when he was 21 was when I realized he was better than everyone else.”
It is evident that the discipline that has been instilled in Lyoto throughout his life is helping him deal with the pressures outside the Octagon as much as they are inside of it.
“I want to thank all of you for taking the time out of your schedule to come see me,” stated a humble Machida when I asked him how the his rapid rise to stardom and the attention he gets has affected him. “I want to fight for my family and my fans and do the best that I can do.”
And in this age of social networking, we had to touch on Machida’s recent dabbling in the world of Twitter. A wide-grin came across his face as he said he liked to interact with his fans as much as possible. This was all news to Soares, who was not aware that Machida was Tweeting, but said he had no problem with him doing so.
“Lyoto loves his fans and tries to reach them every chance he gets,” Soares said. “He’s just a little more technologically advanced than I thought.”
After the interview session Lyoto jumped in the cage and broke a sweat for us so we could get some pictures of him in action. Even in a toned down workout, it was amazing to get an up close look at his prowess between the fences.
Although he enters this title defense with a perfect 15-0 mark, he is quick to pronounce Silva as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
“Anderson has been the champion for a while now and defended his belt,” said the 31-year old Machida, who has vowed to never step inside the Octagon to face his amigo. “This will be my first title defense so I have to prove that I am worthy of being a champion like him.”
We would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge the UFC’s Rachel Trontel and Blackhouse Gym’s publicity department for their hospitality.
We also got our grub on! Boneheads was in the house serving up some delicious grilled salmon, chicken and vegetables. But, they stole the show with their fried shrimp, which was a big hit. Especially with one of Lyoto’s brothers, who took down at least four bowls worth. If you’re in the Orange County area drop in on Boneheads and treat yourself to a great meal.
Before leaving Blackhouse Gym, Lyoto posed for a picture with me. As you can see, he should be very concerned with the size advantage I have on him.
When I thanked him for the pic and his time, Lyoto humbly replied, “Thank you my friend.”
A true champion.
Make sure to check back in with us on Friday as we recap our day at the weigh-ins from L.A. Live, and then on Saturday for live audio round-by-round coverage of UFC 104 starting at 7PM PT/10PM ET.