Lyoto Machida will complete his contract with Bellator when he steps inside the cage Friday in London against Fabian Edwards. After going 2-3 in his first five promotional appearances, “The Dragon” admits the thought of being a free agent can go two different ways.
Returning to middleweight for what could be his final Bellator bout, his “ideal” weight class even thought be won a UFC belt at light heavyweight in the past, Machida said in an interview with MMA Fighting he’s not overthinking the window of opportunity that begins Friday.
“I wanted to do this last fight of my contract and I don’t know how things will be from here on, if I will have more opportunities in Bellator or in other promotions,” Machida said. “Being a free agent is good because you’re free to negotiate, even in other sports, but, on the other hand, you’re kind of loose. I swear I’m not thinking too much about it, I’m just thinking about completing this contract well.”
A veteran of 37 MMA bouts against the who’s who of multiple weight classes and wins over former MMA champions like Dan Henderson, Randy Couture, Gegard Mousasi, Mauricio Rua, Rashad Evans, Tito Ortiz, B.J. Penn, Rich Franklin, Ryan Bader and Vitor Belfort, Machida finds himself at a crossroads in his career.
Machida is still a notable name of the sport as he nears his 44th birthday later this month, but being on a three-fight losing skid in rematches with Mousasi, Bader and Phil Davis could put him in a must-win situation against Edwards in order to secure the better deal possible next.
“Pressure will always exist regardless of the situation you’re in,” Machida said. “If you’re fighting for a belt, there’s pressure. If you’re defending the belt, it’s another type of pressure. If you’re making your promotional debut, there’s pressure. Pressure will always be there. Dealing with pressure is what makes the difference. Today, with the maturity I’ve gained through my experiences and studying and reading, I can dominate that. Pressure will always exist, but we can handle it.”
Machida scored his Bellator wins over Sonnen, by knockout, and former middleweight champion Rafael Carvalho, in a split decision, and is open to re-signing with the company. As for the UFC, a place he left “with no hard feelings,” Machida said it’s “too soon” to discuss possibility returning.
“I got to a point of my career where every fight is like my last,” Machida said. “What does that mean? It means I’m focused on this fight. We don’t know about tomorrow. I say goodbye to a friend in the street like it’s the last time I’m seeing him, but we can meet again next week. You never know.”
Asked if he could walk away from MMA for good and pursue opportunities in other sports like boxing and karate, Machida said “I like to fight MMA, I like it a lot, and I feel young to compete.”
“It’s hard to say this could be my last [MMA] fight,” he said.
Coming off three straight defeats inside the Bellator cage, Machida said there wasn’t much choice as for who would be his next opponent. Edwards, 9-2 in the sport and 4-2 under the Bellator banner, is on a two-fight skid against Costello van Steenis and Austin Vanderford. Yet, “The Dragon” won’t pay too much attention at what he does inside the cage.
“I wanna let things go,” Machida said. “This is MMA. My head is more open to MMA than what it was in the past. In the past, I subconsciously wanted to defend karate, and the sport evolves in a way that you can’t be tied to anything. He’s a tough guy, a good fighter, but we have to worry about our game.”