Come UFC 98, Lyoto Machida can officially scratch his name off the list of top fighters to have never competed for a world crown. With the countless hours of gym time finally behind him, Machida is on point for his title tilt against champ Rashad Evans.
“I think that Rashad is a great fighter, and he’s given some great performances,” Machida stated. “I’m going to go out there with a clear mind and just do what I trained to do. I’m very relaxed right now. I’ve been training a lot. I trained a lot on top of Rashad’s game plan, and I’ve got my own game plan adapted to Rashad.”
Although he stakes claim to a perfect 14-0 professional record, notching wins over the likes of Rich Franklin, BJ Penn, Tito Ortiz and Thiago Silva, Machida has been put through the ringer throughout his journey to this Saturday’s 5Round affair.
Machida is proof that, specifically in the UFC, wicked skills are just as important as the “Wow” factor. Winning without the “Wow” brings to light skepticism not only about your ability to hold a UFC title, but to headline a pay-per-view card in front of a standing-room only arena as well.
The Brazilian’s elusive, yet effective, style has earned him eight victories via decision, something that wasn’t thrilling the UFC or its fans.
Machida no comprende before, but he certainly does now. Loud and clear, as a matter of fact.
“Of course it’s part of my job to entertain the fans,” Machida stated. “In the end [mixed martial arts] is a sport, but it’s also entertainment. I’m being paid to entertain the fans. But I do believe that all of the criticism goes on to a good side of my training because I can hear what the people are saying and kind of adapt my training and get better in whatever way I can.”
Now, he’s not saying that MMA fans will be seeing a completely different fighter than they have in the past. You still have to dance with the chick you brought to the prom, but he now understands what it takes to be tagged among the world’s best.
“But I’m aware that Rashad is the champion, and I’m prepared to go in there and go after the belt,” Machida said of his mind-set. “I’m always looking for the fight, I’m always looking for his chance to engage.”
It’s been a long and winding road to this weekend’s title fight, however Machida feels that the timing for him to become king of the UFC’s most prized division couldn’t be more perfect.
“I think this title shot came at a great time,” Machida expressed. “I’ve had a lot of time to grow as a fighter, a lot of time to train. I think it has taken a little time, but it was great timing and I’m very well prepared.”
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