Lyoto Machida knows what it feels like to reach the top of the mountain.
In his seventh fight with the UFC, Machida knocked out Rashad Evans to become UFC light heavyweight champion in what was dubbed at the time as the beginning of "The Machida Era."
Unfortunately, Machida’s reign lasted for only one more fight before he had the title taken from him by Mauricio "Shogun" Rua. Twice since then, Machida has fought for UFC gold only to come up short on both occasions.
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Now as he approaches what may be another No. 1 contender’s bout this weekend against Luke Rockhold at FOX UFC Fight Night in New Jersey, Machida is ready to earn his fourth shot at the gold since joining the promotion, with plans to add a second title reign.
"I think whoever wins the fight will go for the title. I’m very excited for that. I had a great camp and I’m very confident for this fight," Machida told FOX Sports.
"I believe I’m the next for the title. I believe I can fight the champion. I already have experience fighting for the title at 185 and I think it will be different if I fight (Chris) Weidman again."
I believe I’m the next for the title. I believe I can fight the champion. I already have experience fighting for the title at 185 and I think it will be different if I fight (Chris) Weidman again.
— Lyoto Machida
Machida fell to the current middleweight champion last July, with Weidman coming out on top after a hard-fought, five-round battle. Weidman has his own test at UFC 187 when he faces Vitor Belfort in a highly anticipated showdown between two of the best in the world at 185 pounds.
Machida sees ways for both fighters to win the fight although he believes if it’s over early it favors Belfort and if it goes to decision it definitely favors Weidman.
"I think both of them have a chance. Both of them are very experienced fighters," Machida said. "Vitor Belfort has more of a chance (early) because he’s a very explosive fighter. He can punch more, he hits hard, but I think if the fight goes into the third, fourth and fifth rounds, Weidman has a better chance because he knows how to take someone down, score points, how to hold someone on the ground and score more and more points. He’s good at submissions, too."
Truth be told, Machida doesn’t really care who wins so long as he gets the next shot at the belt.
"It doesn’t matter to me. I want to fight for the title," Machida said. "It doesn’t matter who will be there."
As for his own fight against Rockhold this weekend, Machida knows he’s not going to earn a title shot by facing a lackluster opponent, so the UFC has put him against one of the very best fighters in the world.
Machida has watched Rockhold from a distance for a while and really began to examine him after they signed up for this fight.
"I think he did a very good job, he beat (Michael) Bisping, he beat Tim Boetsch, he showed a very good ground game and a very good stand-up game," Machida said. "He’s a well-rounded fighter, a complete fighter. I think it’s going to be a good fight for everybody."
Outside of his fight with Weidman, Machida has been untouchable as a middleweight, winning his other three fights in impressive fashion. Only Gegard Mousasi was able to take Machida to decision while C.B. Dollaway and Mark Munoz were both knocked out inside the first round.
Machida knows Rockhold isn’t going to just stand there and allow the Brazilian to hit him, but he also believes he’s got the right kind of arsenal to put the former Strikeforce champion away, just like he’s done to so many other fighters in the UFC.
"I cannot foresee the fight, but I think I can do a great job, I know I can beat him," Machida said. "I believe so much in my team and in my training. I think I can apply all my techniques in this fight and win the fight."
The action kicks off live on FOX starting at 6 p.m. ET with the FOX UFC Fight Night prelims before the main card starts at 8 p.m. ET with FOX UFC Fight Night: Machida vs. Rockhold.