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Lyoto Machida sees holes in Rafael Carvalho’s style he’s eager to go right through

Lyoto The Dragon Machida interview

Bellator 213: “MacFarlane vs. Letourneau” takes place Saturday, December 15, 2018 at Neal S. Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu, Hawaii. The scheduled main event will see submission wizard Ilima-Lei MacFarlane (8-0) make her second title defense since winning the Flyweight title against former UFC contender Valerie Letourneau (10-6).

Earlier in the night on Paramount a “Dragon” will rise in Hawaii, one who signed with Bellator in June and who has eagerly been awaiting a chance to prove himself there. That man is former UFC Light Heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida (24-8).

With back-to-back wins over Eryk Anders and Vitor Belfort before leaving the WME-IMG-run promotion behind, Machida could extend his streak to three with his Bellator debut, but to do so he’ll have to former Middleweight champion and fellow Brazilian fighter Rafael Carvalho (15-2), eager to avenge the sting of his loss to Gegard Mousasi earlier this year.

Today Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida talks about the deciding factors in making him pursue success in a new promotion after having had so much success over the years in UFC.

“It’s a long story but I can summarize it. I was always well treated in UFC. I like the people in UFC, I like the staff of UFC, but UFC let my contract run (out) so as soon as I finished I was free to negotiate with other organizations. I believed it was time to change so I came to talk to Scott Coker and Bellator and they offered me a good thing and I couldn’t refuse.”

Can it be that it was all so simple? Of course not. UFC was interested in retaining Machida but he decided a handshake was as good as his word.

“I shake the hand with Scott Coker, so once you shake the hand you must accept everything. It’s hard to change because, you know, I believe in my principles at the time. I gave my word — once I gave my word it’s hard. But UFC gave me another opportunity. They covered (matched) everything but I already gave my word like I told you.”

In the end UFC failed to renegotiate before Machida’s contract ran out. Although they had the opportunity to meet or exceed Bellator’s offer, in Machida’s mind the deal was done.

“In my mind I believe that Bellator is a great event. It’s a huge platform as well like UFC, so I decided to change. I had so long time in UFC, I was so many years (there) and I believe there is a moment in your career that you’ve got to change, you’ve got to do something different.”

And that for “The Dragon” is ultimately what it boils down to — he was ready for a change and there wasn’t a better time to do it than now.

“So it was the right time as soon as my contract finished and Bellator gave me an opportunity, and because of everything, the combination of everything you know? I believe that it was a moment to get out from UFC and give another organization (a try), like (a) big organization like Bellator.”

Rafael Carvalho is also a big opportunity and big opponent for Machida, standing 6’3” with a 78” wing span, edging out Machida at 6’1” and 74”. Machida relishes this new challenge.

“I believe that’s the perfect fight for me. Everyone that I’ve fought is a tough opponent. He’s a former Bellator champion, and after this fight I can have a fight for the (Middleweight) title. Of course it’s kind of a natural process, but I believe that he has a lot of technique. He came from a very good school, which is Siam Muay Thai in Curitiba.”

Machida may respect his school and his status as the former champion but that won’t stop him from making a statement in his promotional debut.

“I have more experience and I have more fights under my belt, and I am so confident. I’ve been having a great camp and I’ve evolved a lot, so I can feel that. Even though people think that I’m in (my) 40’s, I feel like a young guy man because I train with a lot of young guys and I can take on everyone in the gym.”

Carvalho has gotten 80% of his wins (12 of 15) by knockout, and Machida has 10 knockouts of his own, so it’s tempting to think this fight will turn into a striking exchange.

“I believe that most of the time it’s going to be a stand-up exchange you know like punching and kick every time. But it’s a MMA fight that you’re going to fight, so everything can happen. Nobody knows. I have my jiu-jitsu, I’m (a) black belt, I trained with Rener Gracie, Ryron Gracie and all them boys, and also I trained my wrestling with a lot of coaches so as MMA fighter everything can happen. I just have to see the hole, I just have to see the opportunity and CAPITALIZE.”

Machida believes he found those holes watching Bellator 200 and other tapes but he’s understandably a little coy about what he figured out.

“Yeah, I saw so many stuff, but that fight was hard to see (things) because the (Mousasi) fight was so short. I didn’t have an opportunity to study that much, but... I saw a couple of other fights from Rafael Carvalho and of course I saw so many things that I can use against him. Now I won’t be able to say something because it’s a part of my strategy you know?”

You can’t fault Machida for keeping his strategy close to the vest. You’ll just have to watch Bellator 213 tomorrow evening to see what he has in store. Don’t be surprised if it leads to a rematch with Gegard Mousasi down the road.

“I’ll be very glad to have an opportunity to fight Mousasi because Mousasi’s a good fighter, I respect Mousasi a lot, and maybe he wants another opportunity to fight me.”

Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of “MacFarlane vs. Letourneau” resides here at MMA Mania all week long.

To check out the latest Bellator MMA-related news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive news archive right here.

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