Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
LOS ANGELES -- All four participants in Saturday's light heavyweight title shot sweepstakes are doing their best to play off their potential opportunity as no big deal.
It's a sentiment which starts at the top with former champion Mauricio "Shogun" Rua.
"I'm now focused on the fight for next Saturday," Rua said Wednesday through an interpreter. "And then after that I'll start to think about the future."
But as Rua, Brandon Vera, Lyoto Machida, and Ryan Bader made the rounds at the UFC on FOX 4 open workouts at the JW Marriott hotel, it was clear that a crack at the winner of the Sept. 1 bout between Jon Jones and Dan Henderson was on everyone's mind.
"I think it's a great opportunity for everybody," said Machida, who meets Bader in the co-main event at the Staples Center. "For me it's like a challenge, but I don't think a lot about it. I don't want to think about it."
Monday, UFC president Dana White had stated that the winner of the Rua-Vera main event would get the title shot. But in the face of an intense fan backlash, White later told the media via press release that the light heavyweight who wins most impressively on Saturday will get the nod.
For a fighter like Bader, the thought of a potential title shot provides an extra bit of motivation. Bader is coming off a win over a former light heavyweight champion in Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and with a win over another former champion in Machida would make his case for a crack at the crown.
"I'm going to work my butt off hard," said Bader. "I'm going to try to take [Machida] out regardless. Anything else is icing on the cake after that. It would be nice to go out there and finish Lyoto, and, at the press conference, have Dana say I'm the one who gets the next title shot.
"I was always going out there, no matter what, looking to look my best," Bader said. "But, it's in the back of your mind for sure. It might make me a little more aggressive, look for the finish a little more, just in the back of your mind, a bit of motivation."
Vera was one of the two fighters, along with Rua, who were most likely to be disappointed with White's change of plans. But like "Shogun," if Vera was upset, he's not letting on.
"I'm just worried about Shogun," said Vera. "I'm not worried about the after. Just Shogun. Everything else is a bonus. It's a nice bonus, but we'll get there when we get there."
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