Despite an impressive knockout win over Thiago Silva at UFC 94, Lyoto Machida was not assured a shot at UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans’ title. Holding wins over fighters such as Rich Franklin, BJ Penn and Tito Ortiz, it would be tough to argue that there is a more deserving fighter than the 14-0 Brazilian. However UFC president Dana White is making that argument, stating that Machida’s shot will depend on what happens at UFC 96.
“We don’t have [Machida] scheduled to fight Rashad next,” White said. “But he’s in the mix. He’ll probably have a title shot before the end of the year.”
Many thought that after his dominating performance over Ortiz at UFC 84 in May, Machida was destined to face off for the title in his next Octagon appearance. But with the unpredictability of the UFC’s 205-pound division, Machida got lost in the mix.
In addition, Machida’s effective, yet unpopular, elusive style was seen as a difficult selling point for the UFC. However, White thinks that Machida may have dropped that stigma as quickly as he did the ever-dangerous Silva in their bout at UFC 94.
“The thing I said about this kid since the first time I ever saw him is if when you think back to Matt Hughes, Randy Couture, Chuck Liddell and any of the guys who have been the big stars here the past 10 years, they weren’t barn-burners when they first came into the UFC,” White said. “It wasn’t like highlight reels and excitement. What happens is guys get in the UFC. It takes them a little while. They have to feel like this is their home. They have to start to get the feel for it, get some fights under their belt, and I said when Lyoto gets that, he’s going to be very dangerous.”
White stated that Machida’s future will be in the hands of former UFC champ Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. Rampage will be taking on Keith Jardine on March 7th. If Rampage wins, he will get first crack at Evans’ title, however if Jardine can pull off the upset, Machida will get his shot at the strap.
“I think he’s going to be one of the greatest fighters in MMA, and every time he comes out to fight, he proves it more and more. … He looks better every time he fights,” White said.
Machida knows that UFC fans like action, and he is consciously trying to provide that for them. He would like nothing more than to make all of the fans happy.
“I’m just real happy because every time I come out I try to get better and better and try to improve and finish fights,” Machida said. “It just makes me feel good when I go out there and do the job that I did and the fans are cheering for me. That’s my goal: to please my fans.”