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Exclusive Interview: Lyoto Machida

(Photo courtesy of Sherdog.)

After Lyoto Machida scored the biggest win of his undefeated career by out-pointing Tito Ortiz to a unanimous decision at UFC 84, he immediately became the subject of intense debate in the MMA community. While his fans praise his impenetrable defense and technically perfect counter-attacks, there are others who find his stick-and-move style to be boring — or worse, cowardly. Our resident Brazilian Luiz de Souza called Machida at his home base in Belém, Brazil, to get his take on the criticism, and to find out where he thinks he stands in the UFC’s light-heavyweight title picture.


CagePotato: Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with us today. Do you have any idea who your next opponent will be?
There’s been a lot of speculation, but there’s no confirmation of anything yet. But I think it could be Thiago Silva, or even Quinton Jackson.

We’ve heard that multiple fighters have turned down fights with you. Why do you think people are trying to avoid you?
It’s like I said in other interviews, this is a business, and so many times people don’t want to fight, not because they are scared, but because they want to get to the top quicker. Many times, fighters have better opportunities of getting higher-ranked in other fights, which makes them choose their fights sparingly, not accepting all challenges. It’s not a matter of being scared.

Some UFC fans refer to your style as “boring.” How do you respond to that?
The truth is that my style of fighting is very technical, and many times people do not understand what I am trying to show them. But this is my style. I can add to it, try to get better combinations, improve my aggressiveness, but this is my style; it’s each person’s characteristics. There are fighters that try to add to their styles, but it’s very difficult to change completely. I fight for a positive result, and I believe that if I add a few things to my style I can still get these positive results.

I don’t feel that this is the only way fans see me. There are many of them who compliment me, and tell me they enjoy watching me fight, so it’s not only negativity coming from them. But it’s something that depends on each person’s point of view, and how the person is looking at the fight. If the person is only looking at it as a brawl, then it gets harder for the person to understand. But when they look at it with a more technical view, looking at the martial arts in it, maybe they’ll understand it better.

Has the UFC ever asked you to press the action more, or are they content with how your fights have been going?
It is not like that. They always ask you for it. The event’s promoters always want a better show; they are right about what they tell me. They tell me to improve, and that’s a positive thing for me. It’s not really pressure, it’s more like constructive criticism. They want me to turn into a star, they want to build up my name, so they are speaking from their point of view, and I am trying to help make that happen.

In a recent interview, Anderson Silva said he doesn’t want to fight for the light heavyweight title, and you’re the rightful owner of that belt. Do you think you’re worthy of a title shot yet?
Well, my answer to this question might be biased, obviously, but I truly think that I am ready. I am not in a hurry for it yet. I do my job every day, and I know that someday it will be my turn. Receiving a complement of this sort from Anderson Silva makes me very happy and honored because he is a great champion and an example for everyone to follow. He’s a guy with very refined techniques, so this compliment is very important to me.

Have you had any conversations with Dana White or Joe Silva about when you might get your chance to fight for the title?
I never spoke to them directly about this, but it is like I already said, I’m ready for any situation that comes. If they let me fight for the belt, then great. I think it is my turn to go for it, but I am also not worried about it. I know my chance will come in the right time; if my turn hasn’t come up yet it is because it has not been the right time. I’m patiently doing my job until that day comes, and I always try to implement new things to my style of fighting and perfect my technique so that I’m able to get the belt and hold on to it for a long time when my turn comes.

Who would you most like to fight next?
I would like to fight somebody who is ranked above me, like Quinton Jackson, Chuck Liddell, or Forrest Griffin. But like I said, the UFC picks my opponents and I have to do what they say. I can argue a little, but it is better to accept what they have for me. I do what they ask me to do since I am part of the UFC, so I respect their choices.

In your opinion, which light-heavyweight in the UFC would give you the most trouble?
I always fight tough opponents, and they all give you trouble; they all have their strong and their weak points. So anyone in the top ten level is dangerous. I believe that Chuck Liddell would be the fighter that would give me the most trouble.

It was reported that you thought Quinton Jackson won the fight against Forrest, but the UFC would rather have a champion who Chuck Liddell could beat. Is that accurate?
What I said was that in my opinion I thought Quinton Jackson won the fight. In no way was I trying to go against the event, saying that they want Chuck Liddell as the champion. Chuck is a more popular fighter, he sells more, he is an ex-champion, so it is possible that it is his turn at a title shot. A lot of people misinterpreted what I said, saying that what I had said was that the UFC wanted Liddell as the champ. Right now could be his turn at a shot for the belt.

Tell me a little about your training. Where do you train and what’s an average week like for you?
An average week for me goes like this, now that I am at an off-fighting season: On Mondays Wednesdays and Fridays I train the regular karate martial art, wearing my kimono and everything. On those days I also try to train a bit of jiu-jitsu and I lift weights. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays I train MMA style fighting, I work on my ground game. I also do some long distance running so that I can keep myself in shape.

What motivates you as a fighter? How do you stay hungry through all the hard training and all the success you’ve had?
You need to have a goal in life. My father always says that when you have no goals in life you have no more reasons to live, so my goal is what makes me want to go on. Winning is always my goal. Our worst enemy is ourselves, having to wake up, train hard — at times you are tired and you have to go on, winning the fight against yourself. So I feel that this motivates me to keep fighting day by day, not only winning one battle, but trying to be the big champion. My goal is to be the champion, and who knows, if I reach it someday, my new goal will be to maintain the belt for a long time, and I think that this goal is a great motivation to me.

What do you like to do for fun when you’re not training?
When I am not training I like being with my family, with my father, my mother and my wife. We are very close to each other. We always talk about the fights, about my fighting projects, about who my next opponent will be, about the future. I like talking to them, it is very relaxing.

Are you treated like a celebrity in your hometown, Belém do Pará? What are some of the perks of being a UFC star?
I am treated normally here. People treat me very well, and there is no glamour around me. The city I live in is very used to me, they give me great respect, so there is no pressure. I like it better this way because I feel more comfortable. As for being a UFC fighter, it’s a privilege to every fighter. It’s the biggest MMA event in the world, so being able to show my technique and build my career in it is pretty important. I am very proud of it, and I hope to have a contract with them for a long time to come so that I can keep fighting in this event that I like so much.

Thanks so much for your time, Lyoto. Is there anything else you’d like to promote before we sign off?
I would like to thank my sponsors — Bad Boy, Iceman RX and Bony Acai — and everyone from my team. My professors, my dad, my family, Daniel Woirin who is my Muay Thai instructor, Fabricio, Broca my jiu-jitsu instructor, and all the people who give me strength every day. We are a team, no one wins alone, and everyone has their role to fulfill. These people are my support.

This interview was originally conducted in Portuguese.

Cagepotato Comments

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P.zak- January 4, 2009 at 6:34 am
Machida should be given a title fight now, i belive he´s proved himself to be a great fhigter/warrior.
Ian T. S.- December 15, 2008 at 7:51 am
Nobody is going to beat Lyoto Machida He Will be the next champ
Anonymous- December 15, 2008 at 7:43 am
Lyoto Machida is the Best fighter AROUND and is destined to be the next champ
JOe K.- July 16, 2008 at 3:26 pm
To M@TT:

"He’d be a boring champ, giving boring in interviews about a boring fight, making me want to sit outside and smoke a cigarette during rounds instead of in between."

You are the true definition of a cagepotato. I bet you are fat and live a boring and pathetic life. You sit around and criticize peoples lifes work. Their art! Yeah you may not get it and that would make sense because your favorite movie is probably the Incredible Hulk or some other mindless action movie.

The bottom line is Machida wins fights and makes other fighters look bad in the process. The other fighters play a larger part in the "boring" fight than he ever does. Watch the Tito fight again. Tito is the one not engaging.
M@TT- July 14, 2008 at 9:25 pm
to John:

Sure there have been great defensive teams in sports, but name one that people still celebrate that wasn't willing to stand in there and take everything their opponent could throw at them. (blah blah blah, every opponent of his has had their chance to do so - proving your point a little) But to be blunt, he's a boring fighter. He'd be a boring champ, giving boring in interviews about a boring fight, making me want to sit outside and smoke a cigarette during rounds instead of in between.
drillbattery guy- July 14, 2008 at 6:15 pm
I think a fight with Forest would be perfect. Well the new Forest not the old one.
John- July 14, 2008 at 4:22 am
@ M@tt
The thing is that his style makes it so that you think he is in there not to lose, but he is actually in there to win it, being more defensive. That happens in every sport, if you have a really good defense it doesnt mean that you dont want to win the fight, it just means that you are really good at something different than attacking. Many teams have been champions of various leagues due to their powerful defense, and I think that if Machida keeps up with his amazing defense he might be able to be the champ.
M@TT- July 13, 2008 at 4:30 pm
ME: everyone sees the technical side. Technically Machida "fights". I'd just rather see someone who goes into the cage win the fight, not someone who goes in there to not lose. See the difference?
Me- July 13, 2008 at 6:09 am
gracies suck ass Says:

July 11th, 2008 at 2:40 pm
If you don’t finish fights, you don’t deserve a title shot, who the fuck wants to watch 25 min decisions? At leat forrest and page went after each other. I for one would not but a ppv with machida headlining, just because I watch for the finishes a sick sub or KO is right up my alley..but a decision, especially a slow one isn’t my cup of tea. Machida is damn good don’t get me wrong, he just doesn’t finish, which drives me nuts.

You are exactly what Machida was talking about when he said some just look at the fights as a brawl and dont see the technical side at all......
Plain old Kevin- July 12, 2008 at 8:21 pm
Chuck would push the action against Machida and it would be interesting to watch since it would probably be all striking. Rampage would finish Machida. Forrest would get beat up by Machida. My thoughts anyway.
wannabe- July 12, 2008 at 6:20 pm
Some of ya'll need to get off Machida's nuts. Bottom line: He sucks, he'd kick my ass but like Eugene said, This is the elite. He barely looked beter than Tito, you be the judge.
BLS1919- July 12, 2008 at 1:56 am
Machida is a true professional. I love this guy. Who ever they put against him is going to have a very tough time beating him. Lyoto vs Chuck or Rampage would be out of this world. Although if it were against Chuck it would be 2 counterpunchers against each other...not sure who would end up pushing the action. IMo he needs one more win against a highly ranked guy to get his shot...but he is very deserving of the #1 contender spot if they give it to him
skärpning!- July 11, 2008 at 10:51 am
i also really like his defensive style, you can play defensivly in any sport as a strategy whats wrong with that?

when it comes to the titelshot issue i think you have to consider that the older guys like lidell, silva and henderson for example have earned quicker titelshots by giving the fans awesome fights for many years and can´t be expected to take too many random fights this late in their carriers.
they also sell waaay more PPV´s than machida does.

i think the smartest way to do it for the ufc is machida vs rampage and chuck gets a titelshot against forrest. the winner of machida/rampage then gets a shot at the belt.
Eugene- July 11, 2008 at 5:49 am
I love a good brawl like everyone else but this is the elite of MIXED Martial Arts people, not So You Think You Are Tough or whatever that crap is called. You all bash the highly technical Machida and say you want to see him stand there and trade blows, then in other threads you bash the Baroni's of the world who basically are only good for standing there and trading blows. Make up your minds already. A card of nothing but brawls would get boring, that's why the Mixed in MMA has a double meaning. It's great to see a variety, people.

For me Machida is highly entertaining to watch. His style is unique and very effective. He makes everyone he fights look like amateurs. Who knows if he has a chin or heart (like Forrest), that makes watching his fights even more exciting to watch for me hoping someone tags him finally but after watching them miss and miss makes you realize just how good Machida really is. His opponents try to engage first and are made to look slow and stupid, they sit back and try to counter and are made to look even more slow and stupid. Chuck would probably be his toughest test style wise just because of Chuck's unorthodox angles of his counter punching style.

Is he worthy of a title shot? Close, but probably needs one more fight with a top 3 guy just to shut up the haters.
shitwhistle- July 11, 2008 at 5:31 am
See how I do? This thread was way too respectable... I had to fuck with it...
shitwhistle- July 11, 2008 at 5:29 am
If I want sheer, brutal entertainment, I watch those old internet clips of Fowlkes' mom.
A Little Too Raf- July 11, 2008 at 5:07 am
If I want sheer brutal entertainment, I can watch YouTube streetfight videos or the WWE. But when i watch MMA I'm mostly curious who is the most effective fighter, not who's the best showman. I realize this view isn't shared by the majority of MMA fans, which is unfortunate in my opinion since it's an attitude that the more business minded promoters cater to.

When two people step into a ring/cage i personally don't want them to put on a show, i want them to honestly do their best to win by any means so that I can observe their strategy. Like I previously said, if I want a show I'll Youtube Kimbo, or some flamboyant grandmaster getting ridiculed by an amatuer boxer.
shitwhistle- July 11, 2008 at 2:15 am
This is the most respectable comment thread ever. All good points. Well played, fuckers.
People used to say Sugar Ray Leonard had that "boring, stick and run" style. There's always going to be fighters like Machida. It's just the way it is...
jsp- July 11, 2008 at 1:39 am
How did Evans expose Tito? Tito would've won if he hadn't done something stupid and lost a point. If anything, Evans, the "up-and-comer" was exposed by Tito, the "past his prime" guy.

And for what it's worth, I still think Tito would give Forrest a very tough fight. Forrest has improved, but it's not like he's the LHW equivalent of Fedor or Anderson Silva. He still has weaknesses and holes, which the right style of fighter can exploit.
Novices- July 11, 2008 at 1:38 am
Some of you people are so clueless. Read his interview again...
Who Cares- July 11, 2008 at 12:58 am
When i first found out about Machida on youtube watching him knock out Rich Franklin i actually had high hopes for this guy. I never really did like Rich Franklin so watching someone knock his ass out before Anderson did was kind of cool.

Then i saw i finally saw a ppv with him fighting and it was against Vernon White which to this day is probably the worst fight i ever saw period. They both wouldn't engage each other and just circle for about 30 secs exchange 1 or 2 punches then back off. I didn't hate Machida for it everyone is allowed a bad fight here and there.

Then after watching the Hogar, Heath, Nakamora, Sokoudjou and Tito fights. I started to really dislike the guy. The man has great ground skills and takedowns. I mean the way he just stuffed Tito then threw him down like a toy was pretty impressive and Subbing Sokoudjou was nice as well. I just can't stand watching him refuse to use these skills. He is almost arrogant in how he just back peddles and would rather circle, leg kick, circle, jab, circle, head kick the whole fight. Its like he is trying to prove to the world his karate style can win fights and yes it can but it wins DECISIONS only. He hasn't knocked someone out with it in almost 3 years.

I can't take anything away from his talent and from his interviews he sounds like a decent guy. i just can't get into how throws one strike at a time and backs off. Plenty of other "Technical" fighters who can avoid damage and still KO people like Anderson Silva, GSP, and BJ Penn. Now i understand he has a win over BJ Penn but the weight and size difference does come into play. You can't take the win away from Machida but to act like he didn't have an advantage is just silly. If some Heavyweight KO'd Machida all you fans would be making the same point.
Wyatt- July 10, 2008 at 10:02 pm
What do you know, he's just as boring and elusive in interviews. The guy can't even answer a question directly. We don't need a champion like that in MMA. He should go box Floyd Mayweather and they can both try to win without ever taking a step forward.
Pierre- July 10, 2008 at 9:06 pm
This is to Kevin Marshall, in which you stated that "Anybody with a decent amount of jiu-jitsu would’ve able to take him to the ground would have had the same result."...well you forget he beat Rogerio and Arona who both have great jiu jitsu... therefore that argument is null...just stating

And him beating Penn with what you said was what 40 pounds on him is wrong because it was Penn's choice to go up in weight and did so at 205 and not in a situation where Penn came in at say 165 while Lyoto was at 205... so that argument that whenever a fighter is moving up in weight and loses therefore that fight should have an asterik beside it forever... Its not like we do the same for when Couture lost his fights at Heavyweight...we still give all the props to the winners
M@TT- July 10, 2008 at 9:05 pm
everyone here needs to quit acting like they have to step in the ring with the guy and say it like it is: He's a boring fighter! The whole "hit and run" aspect of his game is completely retarded. Kevin made the best point about Tito almost submitting him. Who lets that happen!?! Tito was even calling him out during that fight for running away and not engaging. UFC needs to implement the stalling rule like WCL (not really) just for Machida.

Is he independently wealthy? If I were fighting and I knew I could make an extra 75K for beating someone's ass in a more entertaining way than the others, having a sick KO/TKO or a sweet submission, I'd be trying to walk through everyone across the cage from me everytime I entered.
gracies suck ass- July 10, 2008 at 8:40 pm
If you don't finish fights, you don't deserve a title shot, who the fuck wants to watch 25 min decisions? At leat forrest and page went after each other. I for one would not but a ppv with machida headlining, just because I watch for the finishes a sick sub or KO is right up my alley..but a decision, especially a slow one isn't my cup of tea. Machida is damn good don't get me wrong, he just doesn't finish, which drives me nuts.