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Lyoto Machida Getting More Marketable



It wasn't long ago that Lyoto Machida owning a title belt would have been viewed as bad for the UFC: Machida was derided as a boring fighter, one who wasn't well known, wasn't marketable and wasn't a big draw. But as Machida prepares to fight light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans at UFC 98, I don't think that's the case anymore.

For starters -- and I think this is important -- Machida is clearly working hard at learning English. Check out the above video, and you can see him shouting to the crowd in English after his UFC 94 win over Thiago Silva, and doing the same kind of hyping of the Evans fight to the camera that other fighters do:
"I have spent my whole life to become a champion. That moment is finally here. Rashad can't defend my style. No one can. That's why I never fear my opponents, because I know I have worked harder than them. To me, he will represent only a new challenge for me to conquer."
In my view, speaking English is an important part of appealing to fans, and I'm impressed with how hard Machida is working on that. I first met Machida a year ago before his fight with Tito Ortiz at UFC 84, and he hardly spoke any English at all. He still needs some help -- he used a translator during Tuesday's media conference call -- but his ability to speak to American fans in English now is important.

But much more important is that I think fans are taking a fresh look at Machida's fighting style and finding that it's really not boring at all. In Machida's last three fights he has a submission win in the second round over Sokoudjou, a unanimous decision in which he threw Tito Ortiz around the Octagon for three rounds, and a first-round knockout of the previously undefeated Silva.

Bottom line, Machida is still not among the UFC's biggest draws -- and he's never going to get to Brock Lesnar or Georges St. Pierre territory -- but he has turned himself into the kind of fighter fans can get into. I think if he becomes the champion of the light heavyweight division, that'll be just fine for the UFC.