Former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida will attempt to claim the first victory on his road back to the title tonight. Machida takes on fellow former 205-pound champ Quinton “Rampage” Jackson in the main event of UFC 123 and the Belem, Brazil native recently told MMAJunkie.com that he will enter this bout with a much clearer mind than his last, in which he lost his championship title.
“Part of this game is that you win some and you lose some,” Machida said. “(But) I felt that there was a lot of pressure on my back because many of the fans had this aura of me being the undefeated champion. I knew one day I could lose like everyone else. Now I feel like I’ve learned a lot from that loss and it’s taken a lot of pressure off my back.”
Just because Machida is carrying a lighter load does not mean he feels no pressure at all; he told MMAJunkie.com that pressure is a near-constant companion to fighters at the top levels of the sport.
“The reality is, there’s pressure every time you step into a fight,” Machida said. “Regardless of what stage of your career you’re in, there’s always pressure.”
Machida lost his UFC Light Heavyweight Championship to Mauricio “Shogun” Rua this past May via first round knockout. That defeat marked Machida’s first as a professional, and the Belem, Brazil native will be looking to rebound from that loss and fight his way back to the title.
“I believe whoever wins this fight is going to be shot up to the top of the ladder in the 205lbs. division,” Machida said in a recently released promo for the fight. “I believe that person is me. I hope I can do enough to prove that I’m back in for the title shot, or fight again and then fight for the title.”
Taking on a respected and dangerous former champion like “Rampage” in a bout that will put the winner very close to a title shot (if not grant one to him outright) is certainly cause for pressure. Machida believes he has prepared himself fully for the challenge that Jackson presents, and he is looking forward to an exciting fight brought about by their respective styles.
“It’s a great matchup of styles,” Machida said. “‘Rampage’ is known to be aggressive, and I like to stand up. Put those two styles together, and it’s a good match.”
Jackson recently asserted that he is fighting for honor instead of money this time around and Machida revealed a shared sentiment in that he is looking to prove to himself and everyone watching that he belongs in the UFC at the top level of the sport.
“In every fight you have to prove why you are there. You have to prove something that tells the people and even tells yourself why you are in there and why you deserve to be in there,” he said. “This is no different, I have to prove to myself and to my fans why I’m still in there.”
The two former champions may be coming off of defeats but are both still widely considered to be among the best fighters in the world at 205lbs. Machida believes that their respective statuses and styles will make for a very exciting fight, the result of which he believes is far from a foregone conclusion.
“There is a lot that can be said until the gates of the Octagon lock,” Machida said. “Once the gate is locked anything can happen. We are equals in there, no one has an advantage, and we are really going to see who is the best in the cage.”
UFC 123 goes down tonight at the Palace of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills, Michigan and will also feature the much-anticipated rubber match between former welterweight champions Matt Hughes and BJ Penn. As always, we will provide live free coverage of the event.