Lyoto Machida would’ve likely heard quite a few calls for his retirement if his main event fight against Eryk Anders at UFC Belem didn’t go as planned. But luckily for the former UFC light heavyweight champion, those calls will have to wait.
Machida snapped a career-worst three-fight losing streak and toppled Anders from the ranks of the unbeaten on Saturday night, earning a hard-fought split decision over the former University of Alabama linebacker. The fight was a back-and-forth affair, but ultimately Machida’s strong finish in the fifth round proved to be the difference-maker, as the Brazilian veteran sent his Belem countrymen home happy and “The Dragon” proved he still has some gas left in the tank of his career.
“I was very happy to fight at home, and Eryk’s a very tough opponent,” Machida said Saturday night at UFC Belem’s post-fight press conference. “I think that I was able to control the fight and land more punches. He kept the pressure on, but I think that it’s a matter of who can connect more shots.
“Of course, there’s always doubts (about the decision). You don’t know how the judges interpreted the fight, if they were looking at who kept the pressure or who landed more shots, so there’s always definitely some doubt.”
Machida, 39, called his shot in the immediate aftermath of his defeat of Anders, targeting former UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping for his next fight. Afterward, Machida elaborated on his Bisping callout, explaining that the matchup is one that is a long time in the making and is something Machida hopes to secure before either he or the 38-year-old Brit retire.
“That’s a fight that should’ve happened a couple times and it didn’t,” Machida said. “I think we both matured together in this sport, so I think fight between Michael Bisping and myself would mean a lot.
“He might retire sometime soon, I could retire sometime soon, and people asked for that fight, so it’s a fight that interests me.”
Until recently, Bisping was expected to compete in his retirement fight on March 17 in London, England. Bisping clarified his intentions earlier this week though, announcing on Twitter that he won’t be fighting at UFC London after all.
On Saturday, Machida also demurred when asked about potentially fighting at UFC London, stating that he wasn’t sure about the date or the recovery time he’ll need after fighting twice in 15 weeks.
Machida also entertained the idea of facing another veteran who is zeroing in on retirement — former UFC champion Vitor Belfort — however Machida made it clear that he preferred Bisping.
“If I had a choice, I’d rather not fight someone from Brazil, but as a professional, I couldn’t say no,” Machida said. “I would rather fight a foreigner, but Vitor is a guy who’s done a lot and he’s a great fighter, and I couldn’t say no.”
Either way, after picking up his first victory since 2014 and snapping a slump that saw him go 1-4, Machida reiterated that his primary goals still rest at the top of the middleweight division.
“I don’t want to be in this sport just to participate,” Machida said. “I want to be in this to win, and that’s what motivates me every day to break down barriers and to get better every time, and to exceed my limits and to win fights.
“I want to keep moving (and taking) steps forward, and I want to keep winning fights and getting closer to the title.”