Lyoto Machida will headline Bellator 222 against Chael Sonnen, a man whose name excited Machida when offered to him.
New York, NY – Lyoto Machida had a legendary career in the UFC, and is now making a push to have a great Bellator career. After defeating former champion Rafael Carvalho in his promotional debut, “The Dragon” is set to headline Bellator 222 in Madison Square Garden against Chael Sonnen. It doesn’t get much bigger than that.
“I feel so happy. I’m very excited for this fight. For me, it could not be different, to fight for Bellator in Madison Square Garden against Chael Sonnen. It’s a great opportunity and I can’t wait to step in the cage.”
Chael Sonnen, despite his growing career as an analyst on ESPN, is still very active in MMA. With a 2-2 record in Bellator, Sonnen admitted he doesn’t quite know how to approach this fight, which leads Machida to believe he’ll be going back to the basics.
“I’m expecting a tough opponent. He’s an icon in the sport. He knows how to train, he knows how to fight, and he always gives hard work for every fight. It’s not going to be different for me, so I’ll be ready and very well-prepared for this fight. And of course, I’ll have something under my sleeve.”
Machida expects a title shot with a win over Sonnen, which would be quite a quick rise through a promotion. The Brazilian is grateful for the opportunities presented to him thus far.
“I’m so happy. So happy to have the opportunity to fight in Bellator. Not only because Bellator is a huge event, one of the best in the world, but because when you change something in your life, you have different motivation, different inspiration, and for me to fight here with different guys, with different belts, that opportunity means a lot to me.”
Machida’s promotional debut was in Hawaii, and that was a unique way to get acclimated to Bellator.
“I love Hawaii. Every time I have a chance, I go to Hawaii to spend my vacation time. For me, it was a good experience. I have to be honest and say that it’s different. When you step in for the first time with Bellator, it’s different. The pressure is different. The cage is different, it’s a circle, so I have to get more used to being there.”
Despite having this fight at 205, Lyoto Machida believes a win will lead to a middleweight title shot. That belt happens to be on the line a week after Machida fights, so he’ll be sure to be in attendance for that one with a win over Sonnen.
“When I signed the contract with Bellator they said I can flow between categories, like 205 and 185. Now I have this opportunity to fight Chael Sonnen. And for me, when Bellator offered this name, I said, ‘Oh my god. That’s the best name I could fight.’ After this fight, I’m going to figure out what is my next fight. I just realized that one week after my fight, they’re going to have a main event in London for the belt. Who knows? I can be there live and watch who is going to be the next champion.”
That title fight is between champion Gegard Mousasi and challenger Rafael Lovato Jr., which makes for a very intriguing fight.
“Mousasi has more experience, he has much more fights. But that doesn’t mean everything. It only means that he has more experience. But fights are a combination of everything. You have to have experience, you have to be very motivated, and you also have to have a good strategy. Lovato is a guy that is so dangerous because you know what he already did in jiu-jitsu. He has a very sharp ground game so you have to pay attention. You never know what’s going to happen every fight.”
Machida defeated Mousasi way back in 2014 in a main event in the UFC. Of course, both fighters have changed since then, and their paths may just cross again.
“He has been growing a lot in different ways. He’s improved his ground game a lot. But as I said, that’s why everybody likes MMA, because you never know what’s going to happen in this fight. The fight can go to the ground, the fight can stay standing. If you have just one technique, you can finish the fight. Mousasi is a tough opponent, but he has a very hard task ahead of him. After that, we’ll see. I have my fight too. I have to focus on my next fight which is against Chael.”
Lastly, Lyoto Machida’s prediction for this fight is simple.
“My hands will be raised at the end of the fight, before the time ends. I’m going to finish this fight. I don’t know where it’s going to be, because you never know, but I’ll finish this fight.”
Bellator 222 will air on DAZN on June 14 from Madison Square Garden.