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By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief
In the midst of all the blame and name calling being thrown around this week in regards to the cancellation of UFC 151, the UFC was still scrambling to try to put some fights together. One of the bouts they looked to put on after the mess of this week was Championship rematch between Jon Jones and Lyoto Machida.
However, it was Machida who turned down the opportunity he had earned on Fox earlier this month, leading to the UFC putting in Vitor Belfort at UFC 152 after Mauricio "Shogun" Rua also turned down the fight. In an interview with USA Today, Machida's manager Ed Soares explained why Machida didn't take the fight on Sept. 22.
"Lyoto wants nothing more to be champion once again," Soares said. "Unfortunately, a rematch with Jon Jones doesn't just mean another shot at the title. A second loss to the champion means you have to completely reinvent yourself. It just happened to Chael Sonnen and Frankie Edgar. It happened in the past with B.J. Penn and Rich Franklin.
"Lyoto believes he has a great chance to beat Jon Jones the next time they fight, but he also wants an opportunity to come into the fight at full strength. Jon Jones is a great champion, and we would never disrespect him by assuming we could beat him with any less than our best effort. And Lyoto believes he owes it to himself, to Jon, and to the fans to be fully prepared the next time he steps into cage."
Jones gave similar reasoning, at least from a timing standpoint, for not taking a fight with Chael Sonnen next week, but just like Jones accepted a fight a few weeks later, Machida was only looking for a few more weeks himself.
"When we were offered the chance to fight Jones again at UFC 152 in Toronto, I discussed it with Lyoto, and he said it just wasn't enough time," Soares said. "We asked if the fight could be moved back a few weeks to UFC 153. Unfortunately, the UFC wanted the fight to take place in Toronto."
"Lyoto just wants to know whatever happens in a rematch with Jon Jones that he gave his absolute best performance. Going in there at less than full strength and coming up short could mean Lyoto would be forced to reinvent himself in another division despite believing in his heart that he can still be light-heavyweight champion. That could be a thorn in his side for the rest of his life, and nobody wants to go through that."
White did hint that Machida will likely need to take another fight now before getting a title shot, but regardless of how he comes to it, Machida wants to be the best version of himself the second time he steps across the cage from the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion.
"Lyoto is happy with the decision he made, and I think Dana understands his position, as well," Soares said. "When Lyoto gets another shot at the belt, he wants to make sure he's putting his best foot forward. He knows he made some mistakes in that first fight with Jon, and he's looking forward to correcting them."
"When Lyoto does get his shot, I promise you're going to see the best Lyoto Machida you've ever seen."
Penick's Analysis: Machida's position is reasonable. He wanted to move the fight to Rio, the UFC wasn't willing to keep Jones out that long after already announcing him for the Toronto card, so they went another route. Machida showed against Ryan Bader that he's still an elite talent in this division, and if he brings a different approach into a rematch he'll may be able to have more success. However, those changes may not be able to get worked out in such a short training camp, meaning he'd be at a bigger disadvantage when on Sept. 22. A second loss in a title fight can displace a fighter from the picture in that division, so Machida's right to avoid rushing that fight.
[Lyoto Machida art by Grant Gould (c) MMATorch.com]
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Jamie Penick, editor-in-chief
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