Former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida was separated from his briefly held belt and from consciousness alike when one Mauricio “Shogun” Rua courteously delivered a well-placed hook to his head in their rematch at UFC 113. “Shogun,” who many believe should have been awarded the decision in his and Machida’s controversial first fight, is currently out of competition until at least January due to a knee injury that required surgery and now rehabilitation time. Machida’s manager, Ed Soares, recently spoke with MMAJunkie.com Radio and explained that their camp would like to fight Rua’s next scheduled opponent, Rashad Evans (whom Machida knocked out at UFC 98 to capture the belt primarily), during “Shogun’s” layoff for an interim UFC Light Heavyweight title with the winner to take on “Shogun” upon his return.
“Honestly, we’d like to fight ‘Shogun,'” said Soares. “Now it’s 1-1. It’s even. Let’s do this rubber match. Let’s figure this out. Granted, he won by decision and ‘Shogun’ won decisively, but anyone can get caught in this sport. He went in for the kill, and unfortunately, he got caught. Since ‘Shogun’ is out – they’re saying until March – personally, when there’s an injured champion, I would love to see maybe a Rashad-Lyoto match for the interim title. I think that would be something that would be cool, and the winner of that would get to fight ‘Shogun’ when he’s all healed up in the spring of next year.”
Soares also told MMAJunkie that Machida, who was unbeaten until “Shogun” knocked him out, is taking the loss well and is eager to make his return to the cage.
“One of the coolest things [Machida] told me after the fight (with Rua) was he really, truly feels like a complete fighter now,” said the Black House team manager. “He knows what it feels like to win. He knows what it’s like to be a champ, and now he knows what’s it’s like to lose. It’s going to make him a better fighter – a better person. I guarantee you, he’s going to come back as the best fighter you’ve ever seen. This has only improved him.”
For his part, Machida told MMAJunkie through Soares that he is spending more time training with his Black House teammates at their United States locations in order to shore up his weaknesses and to get prepared for his next fight; he added that he plans to make training in the US a regular part of his training routine.
“I came here to the States to train a lot more wrestling, and of course to spend a lot more time training with Anderson,” Machida said. “I think he’s good training for me, especially for my upcoming opponent, whoever that may be. But I’m healed. I’m ready to go, and I’m ready to get back in there and fight as soon as they give me someone. It was always in my plan to spend more time here, especially to do my training here. Especially now that I don’t have any fight scheduled, I’m a lot more at ease being able to spend more time here and acclimate to what it’s like to train here.”
Rashad Evans, who most recently defeated noted rival Quinton “Rampage” Jackson at UFC 114 to secure his title shot, also recently spoke with MMAJunkie and indicated that he would be willing to risk his title shot were an interim belt placed on the table.
“At this point, unless they come up with an interim title, then I’ll wait,” Evans said. “Having a chance to fight for a title is a once-in-a-lifetime chance, and I consider myself to be very lucky that I got two chances.”
Risking Evans fight with Rua and his status as a top contender by pitting him against Machida again after such a dominant first outing for Machida is a big gamble for Zuffa; should Machida win they would be forced to put on a rubber match that might not make the most sense at this juncture considering that most people see “Shogun” as being 2-0 against Machida instead of the 1-1 that the record shows. It is hard to argue that, after such a decisive loss, Machida deserves to be placed directly back into the title picture. Like Evans, Machida should at least have to rack up two wins over solid competition before fighting for the title again and with as many potential contenders as there are in the light heavyweight division it may make more sense (and be more interesting) to pit Machida against someone he has not yet faced.