Lyoto Machida could soon find himself in title contention at 185 pounds. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
With one devastating kick, Lyoto Machida announced his arrival as a serious player in the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s middleweight division.
Machida made his 185-pound debut in spectacular fashion at UFC Fight Night 30 in October, when he knocked out Mark Munoz with a first-round head kick at the Phones 4U Arena in Manchester, England. “The Dragon,” who held the UFC light heavyweight crown from May 23, 2009 until May 8, 2010, will continue his climb on the middleweight ladder when he collides with former two-division Dream titleholder Gegard Mousasi in the UFC Fight Night 36 main event on Feb. 8 in Jaragua do Sul, Brazil.
The experience against Munoz bolstered Machida’s confidence.
“I felt good,” he told Sherdog.com. “I thought it was going to be more difficult, but it involved quiet, diet and dehydration. It all worked. I’ve been training well around the weight. I’m not that heavy, either, so I don’t feel it much.”
Machida sees plenty of advantages in fighting as a middleweight.
“I think in the other division the guys were bigger than me physically,” he said. “At middleweight, I started to find an ideal weight for me. I face guys my size, my height and with my physique. Another advantage is that I’m not hitting light heavyweights. I’m now beating on middleweights, and I’m guessing a lighter opponent would feel the blows more.”
Machida -- who has compiled a 12-4 record in the UFC -- admits it was difficult fighting Munoz, a friend with whom he has trained extensively in the past.
“Separating your profession from friendship is very difficult,” he said. “In Mark’s case, he thinks like me. We fought and went out to dinner afterwards, without any issues. We have the same goals, but only one of us can occupy that space at a time. We fought because we had an agreement: to fight and then congratulate whoever won. If one of us had not agreed to that, the fought would not have happened.”
Machida recognizes a similar possibility exists with longtime friend Anderson Silva, who will look to recapture the middleweight championship when he confronts Chris Weidman in a rematch at UFC 168 in December.
“I don’t want this fight,” Machida said. “We’re close, and we have the same manager. He’s fighting for the belt, and I’m still far from it. It’s hard to talk about it now. I don’t know if we will cross paths one day. Let’s let things happen and decide what to do. You have to be prepared to face to situation. You have to talk about it.”
Machida’s arrival, along with the presence of Brazilian countrymen Silva, Ronaldo Souza and Vitor Belfort, has reinvigorated the middleweight division.
“Yeah, it’s getting hot,” Machida said with a laugh. “I like to be in divisions like that, and it’s good to have so many Brazilians highly ranked.”