In 2009, Lyoto Machida had a perfect record and was coming off a highlight-reel knockout win over Rashad Evans that won him the UFC light heavyweight title.
Machida (17-2) became the first man since Quinton “Rampage” Jackson to successfully defend the title, winning a controversial decision over Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at UFC 104.
Just over six months later, “The Dragon” was knocked out by Rua, losing his perfect record and the gold belt in the process.
With Jon Jones – who toppled Rua – set to defend his title vs. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson later this month, Machida discussed who becoming a champion puts you in another light.
“I had the belt and lost it. We know it’s all about momentum. You can’t analyze only the fighter; you have to analyze the human being, too,” Machida said. “Jones is in a new setting, as he is the champion now. Everything gets bigger: media calls, responsibility, pressure. Every fight becomes a mountain to climb. You get pressured. Your oxygen gets low. Everything intensifies. To have good performances in normal situations is one thing; to be great when you’re champion is completely different. Opponents are studying him more, everybody is looking for a weakness and he has a target on his back.”
Machida rebounded from a loss to Jackson by topping Randy Couture and sending “The Natural” into retirement in April. He has been rumored as an opponent for Phil Davis later this year or early next year, along with a possible fight vs. Rua to complete the trilogy between the two, so he has no focus on Jones at the present time.
“Let’s see how he does against Rampage, and then I’ll think about him,” Machida said. “I don’t want to be concerned with a challenge that isn’t mine. I’ll do that only when it becomes a reality.”
UFC 135: Jones vs. Rampage takes place September 24 from Denver, Colorado.