UFC 98: ‘Evans vs. Machida’ is set to go down Saturday, May 23, 2009 from The MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, live on pay-per-view (PPV) starting at 10p.m. ET.
Remember: MMAmania.com will provide LIVE updates with blow-by-blow, round-by-round commentary of the main card action on fight night, which is slated to air at 10 p.m. ET.
To get us rolling for event, the UFC held a media conference call this afternoon.
The cast of characters this time around were Light Heavyweight Champion "Sugar" Rashad Evans, Number one light heavyweight contender Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida, along with former UFC Welterweight Champions Matt Hughes and Matt "The Terror" Serra.
While the card has been riddled with injuries and last-minute replacements, the four main draws have fortunately avoided incident, giving us still plenty of reasons to get amped for the event.
Without further ado I give you the Evans, Machida, Hughes and Serra conference call:
UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Rashad Evans:
Question to Rashad Evans: A lot of fighters say the hardest part of the sport is keeping that belt. Is there any difference in your mentality now that you're the guy hunted versus the guy doing the hunting?
Rashad Evans: Honestly, I feel the same. I am actually the underdog going into this fight. So it feels like business as usual.
Question to Rashad Evans: Yeah, about being the underdog. You are currently a nine-to-five underdog. That is a bit surprising given that you are the champion. Are you insulted by that and do you derive any motivation from that?
Rashad Evans: I don't take it personal. It doesn't really matter to me either way. It is not first time I have been the underdog. I haven't lost yet so...
Question to Rashad Evans: How significant do you think this fight is for MMA given the fact that I can't remember the last time their was a title fight where neither fighter has been beaten?
Rashad Evans: Winning the fight will certainly be an accomplishment. So yeah, you can think it is a big deal. But when I go into a fight, I don't worry about whether I am undefeated or not. At the end of the day, it's just another fight. I am just trying to win that one fight.
Question to Rashad Evans: Fans saw a turning point in your career with the Liddell knockout and you solidified your spot as an elite light heavyweight when you beat Forrest Griffin and took the belt. Did you feel an internal turning out or have you always felt that you're an elite fighter?
Rashad Evans: I always felt like I was on an elite level and it is just a matter of performing up to that level. Sometimes you go out there and you may feel like you're going to have a great performance and sometimes you feel like "Damn, I sucked today." You never know what fights are going to be put together and how you might feel on fight day. My last two fights, I had great performances. I'm going to keep putting those performance together; keep my mindset.
Question to Rashad Evans: When you fight an opponent you usually find a reference point for their biggest vulnerability. With Machida, no one has really been to exploit any weaknesses. What problems have that presented in terms of game planning?
Rashad Evans: It doesn't present problems. Watching someone fight and breaking them down, sometimes the best ammunition is just knowing what you can do well and seeing that you'll be able to do that. So, I am not worried about game planning at all.
Question to Rashad Evans: After Keith Jardine's fight with Rampage Jackson, you and Jackson had a confrontation in the ring. After that fight he had to have surgery. Was there a part of you that wanted Rampage next because he beat your friend and you had that confrontation in the cage?
Rashad Evans: I definitely wanted to fight him but I actually think Lyoto is more deserving of the title shot; I think he is a better fight then Rampage Jackson. He has done more to get the shot; either way I want to fight the best.
UFC Light Heavyweight number one contender Lyoto Machida:
Question to Lyoto Machida: Since the first UFC, the goal has been to figure out which marital art is the best. Do you feel Karate is the best martial art for MMA being that you're undefeated?
Lyoto Machida: I believe that martial art is not what builds the athlete. The athlete builds his own art. It is a matter of how you train and how consistent you are and how you strive for things that determine what kind of athlete you are.
Question to Lyoto Machida: Both you and Rashad have a counter-striking style. Rashad tends to employ a feeling out process and gets stronger as the fight goes on. Will it be important for you to get off to an early start?
Lyoto Machida: I am very relaxed right now. I have trained a lot based on Rashad's gameplan and built my gameplan for this fight around that. I think Rashad is a great fighter and has had some great performances. For myself, I am going to go out their with a clear mind and do what I train to do.
Question to Lyoto Machida: This is your first main event in the UFC. Do you feel any added pressure not only to win the fight but put on a good show for the fans?
Lyoto Machida: Of course there is always a little pressure for a main event. One of my main priorities is to put on a great performance and really satisfy my fans. If I come out relaxed and focus on the fight it will be a great fight.
Question to Lyoto Machida: You have said that your body is your sword. Can you clarify what that means?
Lyoto Machida: What I mean through this figure of speech is that I see my body as a sword, as a samurai would, because I need to get at my opponent and I need to harm my opponent; that is what I look to do.
Question to Lyoto Machida: Do you feel like your title shot was overdue or it is coming at just the right time?
Lyoto Machida: I think the title shot came at a great time. I have had a lot of time to grow as a fighter. While I could say that it took awhile; it all worked out and I am now perfectly prepared.
Question to Lyoto Machida: You are known to be an elusive counter-striker but Rashad has the belt. Are you going to go after Rashad and take the belt from him, especially if he employs a very conservative gameplan?
Lyoto Machida: It is hard to say before a fight but I will look for my chance to engage. I am aware Rashad is the champion and I will go in there and go after the belt.
Former UFC Welterweight Champion Matt Hughes:
Question to Matt Hughes: You were hugely popular and have a massive following in the sport. Then you go into TUF 6 as a coach against Matt Serra and it seems like a lot of the fans turned to him in respect to the grudge ya'll have. Do you feel he stole any fans from you and that you have been a bit vilified since the show?
Matt Hughes: No I don't feel that. If I lost fans because of TUF 6 then they weren't fans of me before the show and they weren't really fans to begin with.
Question to Matt Hughes: This fight was supposed to take place awhile back. In the interim both of you have had injuries. How does the fight change in terms of significance and how do you feel about it compared to when it was supposed to happen?
Matt Hughes: I don't think it changes a whole lot. Yeah we have both had injuries and that happens in our sport. I think the fans still want to see this fight. Obviously the both of us still want this fight. So the bottom line is that nothing has really changed.
Question to Matt Hughes: This is the longest you have gone without fighting. How have you trained differently for fight?
Matt Hughes: Well I am getting older so the time off was pretty nice. I have switched things up a bit and gone out to a lot training camps versus staying close to some.
Former UFC Welterweight Champion Matt Serra:
Question to Matt Serra: Do you feel a swing in the other direction (of fan like or dislike after TUF 6)?
Matt Serra: I think whenever you are an outspoken guy and voice your opinion you are going to have guys that either love you or hate you. I get my fair share of fan mail and I also get hate mail. It is all apart of the game and I don't mind that aspect. I don't sweat it either way.
Question for Matt Serra: Some people believe Matt Hughes was one of the best wrestlers in the welterweight division and you were one of the best BJJ practitioners. You are obviously willing to go to the ground with him, but are you going to stand and trade with him? You have said if you punch him in the face it's a win for you.
Matt Serra: I have really gone back to my roots with the BJJ. I have been working with Renzo Gracie a lot because I feel that is where I can counter what Hughes is good at. When I said Hughes is a one trick phony; I think that was taken out of context a lot.
Matt Hughes has been very good at what he does which is take guys down and beats them up. I know where he is the most dangerous so I have to go back to what I am great at. If it stays on its feet then I feel like I have a great advantage and I will be able to do more damage. And if it goes to the ground I will be ready to rock there too. I am ready for the fight both places.
Question to Matt Serra: Sometimes it helps to have a rival or an enemy in the sport. How much has this feud with Matt Hughes helped to keep you in the public eye?
Matt Serra: Well just to put it out there, nothing is manufactured here. This not fake. It doesn't matter if the cameras are there or not. Matt Hughes and I are two very different people. So there is no agenda here. That being said, I love the hype. And I love that people either want to see me get beat down or see Hughes get beat down.
Some of the greatest fights are built up by the pre-fight stuff. This is genuine here. I think my fights with St. Pierre and the TUF 6 show also had something to do with be being in the public eye. Did I answer your question right? I do not want to lose to this guy and it got me through a great training camp so I am ready for this fight.
Question to Matt Serra: This fight was supposed to take place awhile back. In the interim both of you have had injuries. How does the fight change in terms of significance and how do you feel about it compared to when it was supposed to happen?
Matt Serra: I am healthy as a horse right now; I feel great. I feel the best I have felt in ages. I think it is a fight that people still want to see. There was a big build up and unfortunately it got pushed back but I am thrilled that is still going down. Better late then never, ya know.
That’s a wrap, folks.
Remember to come check us out after the event for all the latest results, recaps and our coverage of UFC 98: "Evans vs. Machida." In the meantime, get yourself up to speed by checking out our event archive here.