Just because someone is a former UFC champion doesn’t mean they can’t still get a little uncomfortable in the cage, apparently. After more than a decade of fighting in the Octagon, Machida traded in his UFC gloves for a pair from Bellator, and the circular fighting platform that goes with it. He made his debut with the promotion this past Saturday, December 15th, against former champion Rafael Carvalho in Honolulu, HI.
The result was a close, back-and-forth affair that saw Machida end up with a busted nose for his trouble. But, the ‘Dragon’ still walked away with the win, via split decision. Afterward, he spoke to the assembled media about the fight, and promised that next time things would look different.
“Tough opponent. Tough fight, I believe because it’s my first fight here in Bellator. At the beginning I was kind of lost, you know?” Machida admitted. “Even though I have a lot of fights under my belt – many years in the UFC, other events – but Bellator is different. Every time you step into a different cage you can feel the difference. And that’s what I felt in the beginning of the fight.”
“Everything is different, man. Everything is different. The walkout is different, I see my picture behind me, everything. Amazing show, but I think it’s a natural process to get used to being here. My next fight will be better for sure. Everything already sink in.”
However, even while the scores weren’t unanimous – and the performance may not have been everything he wanted early – Machida still sounded very confident that he had done enough to deserve the win from the judges.
“I was sure I won. Yes,” Machida said, when asked about the decision. “Because the only thing that he did was he punch my face in the first round. After that punch, I didn’t feel anything. I’m not sure if it was in the second round, I tripped and I fell to the ground. That’s what I see. I have to check the fight again.”
While fighting offers few guarantees in terms of what comes next, many fans and pundits have the former light heavyweight champion and middleweight title contender pegged as the next top contender in his new promotional home. With an announced bout between title holder Gegard Mousasi and challenger Rafael Lovato coming up in January, it seems Machida is picking his former UFC foe to get the win — and possibly set up a rematch of two longtime MMA veterans.
“It’s very hard to forsee the fight,” Machida responded, when asked about the Bellator 214 title fight. “I believe that Mousasi has more experience; he’s an experienced, veteran fighter. I can see that. I believe that he has the upper hand over Lovato.”
Mousasi and Machida fought previously back in 2014, with the Brazilian taking a unanimous decision over the former DREAM Middleweight & Light Heavyweight Grand Prix and Strikeforce champion.
Bellator 214 takes place on January 26th in Los Angeles, CA. The event will be headlined by the finale of the Paramount Network promotion’s Heavyweight Grand Prix, when Fedor Emelianenko returns to action against Ryan Bader for the 265 lb title. Mousasi vs. Lovato is planned for the co-main event, with Aaron Pico and Jack Swagger helping round out the main card.