Machida: ‘I’ll Bring Him into My Game’

By Marcelo Alonso May 14, 2009
Since Lyoto Machida arrived in the UFC with his unique Shotokan striking style, many have called him a boring fighter. However, six back-to-back victories against opposition like Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou, Tito Ortiz, and Thiago Silva have left little doubt of the unorthodox fighter’s efficiency in the Octagon.

It reminds Machida of another Brazilian competitor who walked before him.

"When Royce [Gracie] started to beat his opponents on the ground, the American fans were not used to the ground fighting and also criticized his style, but soon his efficient results changed peoples’ mind,” says Machida. “I’m not pretentious to compare myself to the legendary Royce, but I truly think something similar is happening with my standup style. Now I feel people are starting to understand and respect.”

Machida will have an opportunity to gain even more respect when he faces UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans at UFC 98 on May 23 in Las Vegas. Both fighters have remained undefeated in their 14 career bouts, marking the Brazilian’s biggest challenge to date. However, he does not worry about the pressure.

"I’m very happy because I’ve always dreamed about this moment,” says Machida. “Actually, I’ve already faced the worst pressure. In the fight against Ortiz, for example, I was in the middle of [Ortiz’s] personal war against Dana White and the boss threw all the responsibility on my shoulders.”

Machida also felt the heat going into his 2003 bout against another former UFC champion.

Courtesy of Lyoto Machida

Sensei Machida told his
son to believe in his art.
“I felt a lot of pressure when I fought Rich Franklin in Inoki Bomb-Ba-Ye in Japan,” says Machida. “At the time, I had just two MMA fights and he was undefeated with nine knockouts, and many people came to tell me that if I stayed on my feet, I would be knocked out fast. But my father said, ‘It’s not like that; go there and believe in our art.’ I did what he said and knocked him out in the second round.”

Machida, a native of the Amazon, might be the only fighter of Brazil’s elite to not rely on a top MMA training center for his striking.

"I see the preparation for a MMA fight as a set of many important points like sparring, structure, food and family support. Even having Anderson [Silva], [Vitor] Belfort, [Antonio] Minotauro [Nogueira] and other excellent partners in Rio de Janeiro, here in Belém (Para state) I have a more complete package,” says Machida. “I’m close to my family, counting on my father and brother´s support, eating my food, in my city, with excellent trainers, good sparring and making my own schedule.”

The son of a Japanese father and a Brazilian mother, the fighter points to his patriarch Sensei Machida, a Shotokan master, as one of his greatest influences.

"My father is a amazing strategist; when he looks at someone fighting he knows exactly what I have to do,” says Machida. “But my father is hot tempered -- he wants me to decide the fight fast, while my brother, Shinzo (a 2006 world-champion silver medalist in Shotokan karate) is more balanced and fights just like myself. Joining the tactics of my father and the equilibrium of Shinzo, I have the perfect package in my corner.”

Still, with a stacked corner, Machida expects a stiff test from Evans.

"He is a excellent wrestler,” says Machida. “Tito Ortiz tried to take him down, but he couldn’t. I’m not going to lose energy trying. He is also a good striker -- very cold and strategic. That became clear during his last fight when Forrest [Griffin] was beating him up and he suddenly turned the fight in his favor. Certainly, he is studying a way to not get into my game, but my father, brother and I, we are also studying a way to bring him into my game. All I can say is that the fans can expect a great fight.”
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