Former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida lost his belt when he was defeated in a rematch against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at UFC 113 this past May. In the meantime, fellow former champion Rashad Evans got back on the title track after losing his belt to Machida at UFC 98 one year prior with recent wins over Thiago Silva and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. With the victory over Jackson, Evans netted himself a title shot against Rua but with the current champion out until about January or February with a knee injury, Evans has some time to kill. Machida and his camp think that Evans should kill that time by matching up against “The Dragon” to battle for an interim title, an idea that Evans told MMA Heat that he is not exactly on board with.
“I would like to fight him but I had to [win] two fights to get back to being the number one contender: Thiago and Rampage,” Evans told reporter Karyn Bryant. “I don’t see why he should not have to fight anybody and get a chance to fight for his belt back. I think maybe he should go and fight a fight and then come back and we’ll do it like that. Him and Rampage both lost. Maybe they should fight each other. Or [Antonio Rogerio] Nogueira, whoever. I think there’s a lot of good light heavyweights he could fight. There’s somebody he could fight to get his footing back, get his style back and get his feeling back again, but I think when you make us fight each other right now, you eliminate two top competitors. If I fight him and one of us loses and has to go back down, that only leaves room for one of us to go forward. It leaves a gap.”
Rua was originally thought to be out until mid-Spring but recent reports from his camp have him recovering faster than was expected and now the word is that “Shogun” could make a return to the cage as early as January. Either way, Evans would relish the opportunity to use some extra time off to hone his technical skills and is in no hurry to fill the time leading up to his title fight with another title fight.
“I don’t think there needs to be an interim fight,” said “Suga.” “I enjoy the learning process and what happens when you are always training for a fight, there’s only so much you can learn because everything is only for that fight. But when you have the time off, you can allow yourself to bring in new tools and new skills that you can use and get comfortable using them before you have to bring them into a camp and get ready for a fight. So this is actually my growing phase right now. If [Shogun] is out until March, then I’ll wait till March to fight. I don’t see why I would put myself into the position where I would have to put another hurdle right in front of where I’ve already set myself to be.”
UFC President Dana White announced directly after Evans’ win over “Rampage” that the Greg Jackson product had locked up the title shot against Rua; with Machida having already faced Rua twice (and with many believing that he deserved to lose their first meeting) it is unlikely that an interim title fight will be set up, especially now that Rua is expected to return sooner than anticipated and since Evans appeared none-too-keen on the idea. No word yet on exactly when Rua will return or when he will make his first title defense but in a recent interview his manager, Eduardo Alonso, indicated that their camp is interested in possibly fighting Evans on the February Super Bowl card.