As it turns out Dan Henderson’s loss ended up being Vitor Belfort’s gain.
In one of the oddest days in UFC history, a revolving door of potential opponents saw Henderson withdraw from a UFC 151 matchup with light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones (16-1 MMA, 10-1 UFC), who then turned down a fight with Chael Sonnen only to accept a fight with Lyoto Machida (18-3 MMA, 10-3 UFC), who also declined the offer, leading to Jones vs. Belfort at UFC 152. Got it?
Many were surprised that former champion Machida, a man who openly lobbied for a fight with Jones, did not accept the challenge. But Ed Soares, Machida’s longtime manager, said his client is comfortable with the decision.
“Lyoto wants nothing more to be champion once again,” Soares told MMAjunkie.com(www.mmajunkie.com). “Unfortunately, a rematch with Jon Jones doesn’t just mean another shot at the title. A second loss to the champion means you have to completely reinvent yourself. It just happened to Chael Sonnen and Frankie Edgar. It happened in the past with B.J. Penn and Rich Franklin.
“Lyoto believes he has a great chance to beat Jon Jones the next time they fight, but he also wants an opportunity to come into the fight at full strength. Jon Jones is a great champion, and we would never disrespect him by assuming we could beat him with any less than our best effort. And Lyoto believes he owes it to himself, to Jon, and to the fans to be fully prepared the next time he steps into cage.”
UFC 152 takes place Sept. 22 at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre, and while UFC President Dana White announced that Jones would meet Machida in the event’s headliner, he had yet to actually receive a commitment from “The Dragon.” When the offer was officially tendered, Soares said Machida made a simple request: give him a minimum of four full weeks of training, and he can be ready again to fight Jones.
“When we were offered the chance to fight Jones again at UFC 152 in Toronto, I discussed it with Lyoto, and he said it just wasn’t enough time,” Soares said. “We asked if the fight could be moved back a few weeks to UFC 153. Unfortunately, the UFC wanted the fight to take place in Toronto.
“Lyoto just wants to know whatever happens in a rematch with Jon Jones that he gave his absolute best performance. Going in there at less than full strength and coming up short could mean Lyoto would be forced to reinvent himself in another division despite believing in his heart that he can still be light-heavyweight champion. That could be a thorn in his side for the rest of his life, and nobody wants to go through that.”
Machida has received criticism for his choice, especially when it resulted in the odd booking of Jones vs. Belfort (in which the champion is already being considered as much as a 13-to-1 favorite). But Soares said any anger pointed toward his client is severely misdirected.
So Machida instead goes back in line and will now wait for another call from the UFC. Ultimately, the former champion just wants another chance to wrap UFC gold around his waist. Of course, getting a chance to avenge his UFC 140 loss to Jones wouldn’t be a bad thing either.
And when it happens, Soares said Machida is confident he can deliver a masterful performance.
“Lyoto is happy with the decision he made, and I think Dana understands his position, as well,” Soares said. “When Lyoto gets another shot at the belt, he wants to make sure he’s putting his best foot forward. He knows he made some mistakes in that first fight with Jon, and he’s looking forward to correcting them.
“When Lyoto does get his shot, I promise you’re going to see the best Lyoto Machida you’ve ever seen.”