Although he is just a few months away from turning 44, Lyoto Machida is far from done in the fight game and is looking towards finishing out the one fight left on his Bellator contract and testing his value on the open market.
Former UFC light heavyweight champion Machida (26-11) has had a memorable career in mixed martial arts. For a time he was the greatest cage fighting puzzle the UFC had ever seen. As he electrified the Octagon with his Karate-based attack and scored UFC gold. Of course, his time at the top of the 205-pound division eventually ended, but he still went on to challenge for the middleweight title on one occasion and has remained a viable star in the sport ever since.
Now, at 43, it seems like it might be a good time for “The Dragon” to hang up his four-ounce gloves. Especially, since he is in the midst of a career-worst three-fight losing streak. However, Machida says he is far from done, and with only one fight left on his current deal, he plans to hit the free-agent market and offer up his experienced services to the highest bidder in 2022.
Lyoto Machida wants to test free agency in 2022
“[Bellator] came to us and said, ‘Let’s renew [the contract] one more time if Lyoto wants to,’ and whatever, and we said no. Let’s fight this one first and then we’ll see,” Machida said during an appearance on MMA Fighting’s Portuguese-language podcast Trocação Franca. “Every fight is a different fight for me. I saw it that way in the past, and even more now.”
For fighters like Machida, that have achieved so much but are at the end of a storied career, motivation is always a major factor in choosing to still compete well beyond prime years. Although the Brazilian admits money is certainly a big factor in his desire to keep fighting, it can’t be the main factor. And for him, the challenge of testing himself in the cage still lures him back to action and stokes his fighting spirit.
“It’s the challenge. Money is important, of course, it goes side by side, but the challenge is what moves us. If you’re doing something only for the money, that’s weak, that’s secondary,” he said. … “Money has to come because that’s earned, you work for that, but it can’t come first. As soon as money comes before other people and your wishes and dreams, that’s weak.
“I want to continue fighting because that’s what motivates me. When I feel I can’t do it anymore, I’ll switch gears and go in another direction. I won’t insist on something if I see I can’t do it,” Machida explained. “But as long as I think I’m innovating and able to do something different that makes me feel well, money will always come second for me.”
“The fire is still burning inside me and that’s what matters the most. I want to innovate. I want to create a different game. I want to do different things that give me a different experience. And [I want to] fight.”
Machida ended his run in the UFC after back-to-back wins and signed with Bellator in 2018. He won his first two bouts for the organization, however, that was followed by consecutive split-decision losses to former Bellator champions Gegard Mousasi and Phil Davis. Then he lost to Ryan Bader this past April in the opening round of the light heavyweight Grand Prix.
Considering the strong competition and close losses, is Machida still a high-level fighter at 43 and will be a big name in free agency?