GOIANIA, Brazil – While UFC officials expect a passionate crowd of several thousand fans to pack Brazil’s Goiania Arena for Saturday’s “UFC Fight Night: Belfort vs. Henderson” event, Lyoto Machida (20-4 MMA, 12-4 UFC) may be the one paying the most attention to the night’s headliner.
The former UFC light heavyweight champion in October made the drop to middleweight, knocking out friend and sometimes training partner Mark Munoz. Now he hopes to supplant Vitor Belfort as the de facto No. 1 contender at 185 pounds, where he would have the chance to join Randy Couture andB.J. Penn as the only fighters to win UFC titles in two different divisions.
“I want to go down in history and make a name for myself in the UFC,” Machida told USA TODAY Sports. “I want to do what these guys did because it would be a very rare thing that very few guys have done.”
Belfort (23-10 MMA, 12-6 UFC) meets Dan Henderson (29-10 MMA, 6-4 UFC) in the featured contest of Saturday’s fight card, which airs on FOX Sports 1 (8 p.m. ET). While the bout is being contested at 205 pounds, UFC President Dana White confirmed an impressive performance from Belfort could earn him the title shot for which he’s recently lobbied.
But should Henderson prove victorious, as he did when the pair first met in 2006, UFC officials will be looking for another title contender to emerge and face the winner of December’s UFC 168 headliner between current champion Chris Weidman (10-0 MMA, 6-0 UFC) and the man he beat for the title, Anderson Silva (33-5 MMA, 16-1 UFC).
Should Machida prove victorious in his Feb. 8 fight with Gegard Mousasi (34-3-2 MMA, 1-0 UFC) – and should Belfort lose his spot in line on Saturday night – Machida is confident he’ll be worthy of a shot at the belt, even if it’s wrapped around the waist of longtime friend Silva.
“We don’t know if Anderson is going to keep fighting,” Machida said. “He’s been a champion for so long, for so many years. He said it himself: ‘If I have to fight with Lyoto, I’d rather give up the belt because I’ve been a champion for so long.’”
And so Machida’s path to the title and UFC history are quite clear. He just needs a little help along the way. He’ll be cageside on Saturday night to see if the first hurdle will be cleared. Either way, he likes his chances of getting to the top of the UFC’s middleweight division.
“Switching divisions, making this whole new change, was like a new chapter in my career,” the 35-year-old said. “This is a new moment for me.