Lyoto Machida would have no issue fighting Ryan Bader for the Bellator light heavyweight title, and doesn’t want to see the champ stripped, despite having not defended the belt since 2017.
New York, NY — Bellator 222 has an intriguing contrast of styles in its co-main event. Outside the cage, even. Lyoto Machida will face Chael Sonnen in a light heavyweight contest that could actually see the winner get the next title shot at 205lbs. It’s wrestler vs. striker. It’s also reserved, soft-spoken martial artist against trash talker.
Only, Sonnen isn’t playing ball. He’s not trash talking for this one. So at the Bellator 222 media day on Wednesday, Cageside Press tried to get Machida to talk a little trash.
No dice. Not that we expected anything different. “I don’t use trash talk to promote the fight, so I just be myself. I like to respect my opponents, I like to sell the fight in other ways,” Machida said. Fair enough, it was a long shot.
Machida, for his part, would rather put emphasis on the “legend fight” status of the bout. “That’s the part I love about Bellator. Because they do legend fights. They do different fights that maybe couldn’t happen back in the day,” he told us.
“They do these match-ups which are so interesting for everybody. For fans, for reporters, for fighters too. For me, I love to be here.”
While he might love being in Bellator, he hasn’t really selected a weight class just yet. His debut in the promotion came at middleweight. The Sonnen fight is at light heavyweight. “In terms of cutting weight, I prefer to fight at 205. But technically, both categories are very hard, because everybody’s huge,” Machida admitted. Middleweight is no easier than light heavyweight. “There’s no ‘he’s there just because he happens to be there.’ Everybody’s well prepared, so it’s hard to say [which he prefers].”
With the exception of weight cutting, of course. “Nowadays, because I have this fight coming up at 205, I can say I feel [it’s] more easy to cut weight, it’s one less concern you have during Fight Week. Because as a fighter, you have just to think [about] the day of the fight.” For Machida, it’s one less distraction from what he has to do in the cage. “When you have to cut so much weight, it’s one more thing that you have to be concerned about that can bother you sometimes.”
Against Sonnen, he sees one clear advantage. “I can control the distance really well.” His punches and kicks, with that Karate style, will allow for that. “That can effect Sonnen’s style a little bit. I’ve already fought a lot of wrestlers. I consider myself very successful against wrestlers.”
The end goal for Machida is a title fight. And with that in mind, he does not want light heavyweight champion Ryan Bader, who has been moonlighting as a heavyweight, stripped of the title.
“Stripped? No, no, no. He needs the belt,” Machida responded when the idea was suggested to him. “I want to fight for the belt, I consider Ryan Bader one of my toughest opponents that I already faced. He deserves it, he got the belt at 205, he got the belt at heavyweight as well. He deserves it. He’s a great talent, he’s a great fighter.”
Were Bellator CEO Scott Coker to offer Machida his choice of title fights, at middleweight or light heavyweight, ‘The Dragon’ would have a very simple response. “What comes first? I would say ‘Hey Scott, you tell me. Where you want, I’ll be ready!'”
Bellator 222 takes place Friday, June 14 at the famed Madison Square Garden in New York, NY.