Bellator 222: “MacDonald vs. Gracie” takes place at Madison Square Garden in New York, N.Y., tomorrow night (Fri., June 14, 2019), streaming exclusively online via DAZN. Welterweight champion Rory MacDonald (20-5-1) puts his title on the line when he attempts to advance to the finals of the Grand Prix against the undefeated Neiman Gracie (9-0).
Originally this card was headlined by Lyoto Machida vs. Chael Sonnen, but fear not fight fans, that bout is still scheduled for the co-main. Machida (25-8) will look to extend his win streak to four in only his second Bellator MMA fight since joining the promotion. Even though Sonnen (31-16-1) splits his time between training for fights and running his mouth at the commentary desk, he shouldn’t be overlooked against “The Dragon.” With recent wins over Wanderlei Silva and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson under his belt, Sonnen proved his wrestling background can still be a tough problem to solve.
“Machida Karate” may be the answer to that problem.
Machida recently spoke with MMAmania.com today about this upcoming bout and having his nose mashed in against Rafael Carvalho.
“I was very very happy after the fight because it was my first fight (in the promotion), I had just debuted in the Bellator cage, and Rafael Carvalho was a tough opponent. He hit my nose in the beginning of the fight, but I could handle everything he did until the end (of the fight).”
It’s easier to handle everything when you can replenish your oxygen supply through your nose, but regardless Machida was still pleased with the split decision win.
“After that, I’m so satisfied because I know Rafael Carvalho he just lost to (Gegard) Mousasi and he had a lot of fights under his belt and he beat a lot of tough opponents. It was a tough fight, but I could win that fight.”
In the second round Machida nearly finished Carvalho with a big head kick, but to hear Machida tell it he was only using his feet because of an injury to his hand.
“No, no, because he took the (head kick) technique, but he could handle everything. I could handle the ground and control him, but I broke my thumb in the first round and I could not punch whatsoever in that moment. So I just controlled more, controlled the fight, that’s why I put the fight on the ground.”
With all of those injuries coming off the Carvalho fight is Machida back to 100 percent going into the fight on Friday with Chael Sonnen?
“I’m ready, man! I’m just ready to go. I had a lot of time, plenty of time to recover my body and I had a great camp for this fight so without a doubt I know that I will be there and just give my best with an outstanding performance.”
While some fighters would be dejected about losing the main event spotlight, Machida has a way of finding the silver lining in any dark cloud.
“That doesn’t change anything in my mind. I just became more excited because I can watch the last fight, I’ll be able to watch the last fight. Of course I’d like to do the main event, but we’ve got to do what’s going to be the best for the event. It’s a championship (fight). The fight between Neiman Gracie and Rory MacDonald is going to be a great fight for sure. So they put my fight against Chael Sonnen in the co-main event, which is good too, so I’m not worried about that.”
Sonnen has had a few big wins since his Bellator stint began, but he’s also been dropped in some as well. What does Machida think of Sonnen now in 2019?
“So you know we’ve both already fought a lot of legendary fighters. Chael has a great outcome over a lot of them. What I think is (that) Chael is a legend fighting, usually he comes to the fight very well prepared, which I like because I like to have something to challenge myself. I still believe that Chael Sonnen, even though he’s 42 years old, he’s still young in his body. That’s why it’s going to be a great fight.”
At 41, Machida isn’t young either, but it’s clear that his philosophy is “age is just a number.”
“You know what? I just want to be there because I had a great training (camp) and I trained so seriously. I don’t care about if my opponent is 30 years old, 42 years old, 38 years old, it doesn’t matter to me. I always prepare myself for the best, for having better fights all the time.”
“The American Gangster” Sonnen is well known for his trash talking, whereas “The Dragon” Machida is cool, calm and respectful before each one of his big fights.
“So, I came from very traditional martial arts, very traditional family martial arts. That’s why my point of view in martial arts is very respectful. I like to respect my opponent because I believe my opponent is giving me a chance to show my job. That’s why he’s there. That’s why I have to have a lot of respect for him.”
Surprisingly though, Machida doesn’t think all trash talking is bad. He uses the mindset “it’s both sports and entertainment” to understand why some fighters do it.
“Most fighters, they are not wrong, but they have a different mindset which we have to respect too. They want to promote the fight. We know this is a sport but it’s more than sport, it’s entertainment, so we need to promote the fight. So I respect that but I have my (own) way to promote the fight. I believe I have my own style, I came from a traditional Japanese martial art, which has its own philosophy. That’s my mindset. That’s why I respect everyone that I fought back in the days.”
Even good ol’ J.R. would say that pro wrestling and mixed martial arts (MMA) are not the same thing, but count on Sonnen to “sports entertain,” while Lyoto Machida lets his Machida Karate do the talking.
Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of Bellator 222 “MacDonald vs. Gracie” resides here at MMA Mania all week long.
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