Former UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida feels no pressure ahead of his Bellator debut on Saturday night. A 11-year veteran of the Octagon, ‘The Dragon’ will meet fellow Brazilian and former middleweight titleholder Rafael Carvalho, who is eight years younger than the 40-year-old Machida.
However, as the pair approach fight night, Lyoto tells Bloody Elbow he feels no pressure to debut at a different organization after such a long time under the UFC’s umbrella, not even when paired up against a younger ex-champion.
“I’m happy with the change. When I signed with Bellator, I knew this would be a new positive chapter in my career. This breath of fresh air could bring me motivation. I expect to have a great debut fight, I’ve been working intensely and I feel like I’m at one of the best stages of my career. I like it how they are managing me. Conversations are more personal, there’s more flexibility. I’m ready to do my best and become the champion.”
A Karate black belt, Lyoto has been practicing the martial art and honing his skills ever since he was a little boy. When he meets Carvalho, a Muay Thai specialist, on Saturday night, an interesting battle of striking styles should ensue. But Machida wouldn’t bet on anything other than his technique being the superior one and securing him the win.
“I respect Rafael and the career he is building very much. He is a tough guy, it sure will be a great fight. All my preparation is focused towards the development of my mother martial art, Karate. Both martial arts are based on stand-up striking, so it’ll be a good clash. I know he wants to finish the fight and so do I. I bet a lot more on the precision of my Karate.”
Bellator’s current middleweight champion, Gegard Mousasi, is someone who Machida soundly defeated a few years ago, and the ‘Dreamcatcher’ has been quite vocal about beating Lyoto in a rematch. In the Brazilian’s opinion, Gegard just hasn’t been able to move on from that loss, but would welcome a rematch with the title on the line should he defeat Carvalho.
“I think Mousasi has that fight stuck in his throat. He always talks about fighting me. I’m a professional and I focus on one fight at a time. My opponent now is Rafael. After that, I’m ready to fight him. All they have to do is book it.”
Lyoto Machida left the UFC on a two-fight winning streak, with wins over the likes of Vitor Belfort and Eryk Anders. Before that, he was on a three-fight skid, losing to Yoel Romero, Luke Rockhold and Derek Brunson.