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Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida: Seizing the Opportunity

Lyoto Machida has been patiently waiting. 6-0 in the UFC and 14-0 overall, Machida has been consistently dominant in the Octagon, yet a shot at the Light Heavyweight title has eluded him. There was no denying following his UFC 94 destruction of previously unbeaten Thiago Silva (13-1 MMA, 4-1 UFC), that “The Dragon” was indeed ready to be labeled a number one contender.

Despite his dominating performance at UFC 94, it was soon learned that Machida would have to wait for his shot following the results of the Jackson vs. Jardine main event at UFC 96. As expected, Quinton Jackson did defeat Keith Jardine at UFC 96, and at the time it appeared that Lyoto Machida would once again be shelved in the shadows for his shot at glory.

In the days leading up to UFC 96, a turn in the events occurred when Frank Mir announced his knee surgery, therefore postponing his much anticipated rematch with Brock Lesnar. The UFC shuffled their cards a bit, moving up the date on the Light Heavyweight title defense of Rashad Evans.

With the date being moved up, it was quickly apparent that Jackson, who was still nursing some injuries from his UFC 96 bout with Jardine, would not be ready by the newly proposed date for a clash with Rashad Evans.

This turn of events couldn’t have worked out better for Lyoto, as it was recently announced that he would be the next in line for a shot at Rashad Evans and one of the most coveted belts in the UFC. GracieMag recently caught up with Machida after the announcement and got his thoughts on fighting for the Light Heavyweight belt and on facing “Sugar” Rashad Evans.

Machida found out several days before it was publicly announced that the fight was a done deal saying, “I found out just a bit before everyone else, I got a call from my manager saying it was a done deal. I was really happy because this is the chance I always hoped for and fought for.”

“It’s a dream that after 15 years is being fulfilled”, said Machida. “My moment is coming. Maybe yes, maybe not, but my opportunity has come. My story’s a bit different; I didn’t just come out of nowhere. A lot of folks don’t understand that.”

It is Lyoto Machida’s philosophy on his career and the fight game that makes him stand apart. Unlike a lot of fighters that always come into fights talking about how they are going to dominate and destroy their opponents, Machida instead sees all of his fights as a type of progression on the road map of his career.

“Now is a very important moment for me”, said Machida. “A decisive moment because I’m going to put myself to the test come May 23, again. But I know this is just a step. My career will go on. Regardless of what happens I want to continue, if just because one’s objectives change too.”

Come May, Lyoto will be facing another fighter without a loss, much like his recent opponent Thiago Silva. Despite Evans’s speed, boxing ability, and superior wrestling skills, Machida says that he has seen it all before.

“I know Rashad’s a super-strategic fighter, is good at wrestling, good at boxing, and hits real hard”, said Machida. “But I’ve already fought a lot of guys like that. And this is just another fight for me.”

“I can’t let myself think this is some seven-headed monster, I’m going to get out there and do my job. I think that’s what’s important. That’s the mentality that will make me stronger.”

It’s that mentality that is starting to really give Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida a mystique about him. A mystique that tells an adversary that there is no getting into the head of Machida before or after the Octagon cage slams shut. A mystique that may just make him the NEXT UFC Light Heavyweight Champion of the World.

By:  Denny Hodge

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