There was some shock when the main event for this weekend’s UFC Fight Night card was announced as Lyoto Machida returned to action to face Yoel Romero after just suffering a loss to Luke Rockhold in late April.
While Machida fell by submission in the end, it was a first round strike that left the former champion wobbled and still feeling the effects as he went out for the second. It didn’t take long for Rockhold to take advantage of Machida’s dazed and confused state to sink in a rear naked choke to get the finish.
Machida made a quick turn around to accept the fight with Romero just two months later, but according to the former light heavyweight champion he suffered no ill effects from the Rockhold fight except a hand injury that he was dealing with before stepping into the Octagon back in April.
“The only thing I had, a couple of days after the fight I had hand surgery to clean up bone fragments in my hand,” Machida told FOX Sports. “In my last camp, my hands would hurt when I would punch or train and I just kind of fought through it.
“So a couple of days after the Rockhold fight, I had surgery on my hand and stayed busy and stayed active. I feel great for this camp. No real injuries other than the surgery to clean up the bone fragments.”
The surgery was a success because Machida says his hand is now feeling better than ever and he’s excited to see how it feels while thudding against Romero’s head on Saturday night.
“I WANT TO BE REMEMBERED AS A GUY WHO HAS ALWAYS RESPECTED HIS OPPONENTS. I WANT TO BE REMEMBERED AS A PIONEER THAT MADE KARATE EFFECTIVE IN THE UFC”
— Lyoto Machida
“My hand feels great,” Machida said. “Very, very good and we’ll put it to the test on Saturday night.”
Like most fighters coming off a loss, Machida didn’t want to sit on the sidelines very long waiting for the chance to get the bad taste of defeat out of his mouth.
While it’s certainly a dangerous fight to face a former Olympic silver medalist with huge knockout power, Machida believes he has just as many weapons if not more than Romero.
“Yoel’s performances have been great, he’s shown that he’s a very calm fighter, very good and he goes out there and takes care of what he has to do. He’s a very complete fighter,” Machida said.
“Yoel is a very dangerous guy. He is dangerous. He can finish the fight until the very last minute — but so can I.”
The biggest weapon in Romero’s back pocket is his wrestling, which might be the some of the best grappling in the entire sport of mixed martial arts. He’s got a laundry list of wrestling awards and Romero is explosive when shooting in to get an opponent to the ground.
Machida is no stranger to facing wrestlers during his career.
In his last 10 fights, Machida has taken on an Olympian, an Olympic alternate, two NCAA wrestling champions, three more NCAA wrestling All-Americans and the one Junior College national champion. He’ll add Romero’s Olympic silver medalist credentials to his resume this weekend, but after facing so many wrestlers throughout his career does Machida believe he’s finally facing the cream of the crop?
Machida is also keenly aware how big this fight will be in terms of his career.”On paper when you’re looking strictly at wrestling, Yoel could be the best wrestler I’ve faced. But with that being said, it only matters if he’s a great wrestler if he can mix it up,” Machida said. “Like (Chris Weidman) who is branded as a wrestler, but he knows how to mix it up better. That’s what we’re going to have to see on Saturday night.”
The Brazilian just recently turned 37-years of age and after bouncing back and forth between wins and losses in his last four fights, Machida knows he needs a win if he hopes to stay in title contention or ranked amongst the top five fighters in the division.
No one has to explain to Machida just how important it is to win on Saturday night. While some fighters like to hunt for post fight bonuses or ‘Fight of the Night’ awards, Machida is only thinking about one thing when he steps into the Octagon with Romero.
“I think every fight I take is just one step closer to cementing my legacy,” Machida said. “This is a very important fight, fighting a guy like Yoel. This is just one more fight to cementing my place in history.”
“I want to be remembered as a guy who has always respected his opponents. I want to be remembered as a pioneer that made karate effective in the UFC.”