Ex-champ Lyoto Machida is keeping an open mind about where he is in the UFC’s light-heavyweight division.
And after hearing that the winner of Saturday’s UFC on FOX 4 headliner – Mauricio “Shogun” Rua vs. Brandon Vera – will get the next shot at the UFC light-heavyweight title, can you blame him?
“Really, anything can happen,” Machida told MMAjunkie.com(www.mmajunkie.com) through a translator. “Obviously, I’m trying to train as hard as I can and put on a good fight, and I try to trace a way back to the title. But that’s not really what I’m focused on right now.”
Like the rest of the media on a media call held today in support of UFC on FOX 4, which takes place Saturday at Staples Center in Los Angeles, Machida didn’t know Rua vs. Vera was for the No. 1 title contender’s position, as UFC president Dana White announced at the top of the call.
White sold the accomplishments of both ex-champ Rua and veteran Vera, while saying, in effect, that both have done more than enough to challenge for the belt.
The executive’s enthusiasm wasn’t mirrored online, however. Immediate feedback was largely negative, owing to the fact that the current champ, Jon Jones, who choked out Machida at UFC 140, has also already beaten Rua and Vera in devastating fashion.
Even the champ was a little confused.
“Scratching my head,” Jones tweeted when informed of the bout’s status.
Machida (17-3 MMA, 9-3 UFC), who meets Ryan Bader (14-2 MMA, 7-2 UFC) in UFC on FOX 4′s co-main event, could have railed at the decision for a variety of reasons. That might have put him back in the crosshairs of his employer, as he was when his camp asked for “Anderson Silva money” to fight last minute against Rashad Evans at UFC 133. Instead, he put his faith in the UFC.
“I think the UFC always positions themselves correctly, and this fight could be a great fight this weekend,” Machida said. “‘Shogun’ was obviously a champion, and Brandon Vera has fought in two weight classes – he’s a great fighter, as well. This fight … could be deserving of a title shot.”
And, he accurately hinted that in the case of division standings and title shots, things can change – in a hurry.
Earlier today, Machida’s manager, Ed Soares, welcomed the idea of a rubber match between Machida and Rua as the conclusion to opposing coaching spots on the next season of “The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil.”
Machida endorsed that plan.
“I think it would be a great opportunity for the both of us,” he said. “I would love to face ‘Shogun’ again, and I think he probably feels the same way. It’s one victory to each of us right now, and I think it would definitely put us in a good position for title contention.”
But ultimately, Machida needs to win on Saturday against Bader. On paper, he is 1-3 in his past four fights and would appear to be in imminent danger of being relegated to the preliminary portion of future events. Soares said his client is merely facing the reality of top-flight competition (and discounts a split-decision loss to Quinton “Rampage” Jackson at UFC 123).
For the man who reignited the spirit of karate in MMA, though, it’s all part of the journey.
“We learn a lot from our losses, and I’ve learned a lot in the last few years with these losses,” Machida said. “But I’m always looking for the best training I can get and training as correctly as I think I can. I want to come out there and surprise everyone and give a show.”