Whether or not it still stands, UFC president Dana White was quoted in January as saying that former UFC light heavyweight champ Lyoto Machida’s upcoming bout against UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture is a “must-win” fight for the Brazilian, lest he be cut from the promotion.
After losing his 205lbs. crown to Mauricio Rua last Spring, “The Dragon” dropped a close and controversial contest to fellow former champ Quinton “Rampage” Jackson in November. Three losses in a row have long signaled a fighter’s death knell in the world’s most prominent MMA promotion, but Machida isn’t letting the pressure get to him ahead of his impending bout with Couture.
“The pressure still exists, but it’s in a different form now,” Machida said on Tuesday’s media conference call (props to MMAFighting.com). “As you go in there, you keep winning, after you’ve had a loss or two, people start to humanize you. Before, you start carrying that pressure, like ‘Oh my God, I can’t lose, there’s too much pressure,’ I definitely felt a lot more at ease. I still feel pressure, but it’s not the same pressure I felt before.”
Machida knows very well that he could be on the chopping block soon, but he explained that he isn’t letting thoughts like that cloud his focus before the fight.
“Every fight and every situation is different, and the pressure always exists,” Machida said. “I try to focus on what I’ve trained. I’ve had a great training camp. I try to take what I’ve experienced in the past and learn from it. I’m very well prepared for this fight. I try to block out all of that pressure and focus on going in there. If you let your mind get away from you, ‘What if this happens? What if that happens?,’ it’s just not very good. I just focus on what I want to do in the fight.”
Randy Couture has said that he is almost assuredly retiring after his fight with Machida, win or lose; but will it be the last night that we see both men in the Octagon? The fight goes down on the 30th of this month at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada — tune in to find out.