Lyoto Machida says he feels ‘more free’ as a member of Bellator roster


NEW YORK – Lyoto Machida has been a member of the Bellator roster for only a short time, yet he’s already feeling right at home.

The former UFC light heavyweight champion will compete at Friday night’s Bellator 222 – his second fight under the promotion’s banner. In the middle of the cage at Madison Square Garden, Machida (25-8 MMA, 1-0 BMMA) will square off with Chael Sonnen in a long-awaited bout that co-headlines the event.

Reflecting on his tenure in the UFC, “The Dragon” believes the biggest upgrade he’s experienced since joining Bellator is the overall sense of freedom.

“(I) can just talk good things about Bellator, because I feel more free here,” Machida told MMA Junkie at Wednesday’s Bellator 222 media day. “I feel that here they have a different style of fighters. They put together like they put to fight [sic]. It’s very interesting. How many people want to see my fight against Chael Sonnen? It was supposed to happen in the UFC back in the days, but fortunately it’s happening right now here in Bellator. It’s a big cage, one of the best events that we going to have.”

A new promotional home isn’t the only tweak Machida has made recently. The 41-year-old Brazilian has moved back up to light heavyweight, a place he feels much more at ease.

“(I feel) much better in terms of cutting weight, so I don’t need to cut a lot of weight, just a couple pounds,” Machida said. “Like three, four kilos easy. Usually, when I’m fighting at 185, I have to cut much more. The last day I have to cut four kilos. But now I don’t even need to control that much, my diet.”

Understatedly, Sonnen (30-16-1 MMA, 2-2 BMMA) hasn’t always gotten along with Brazilian fighters. From entering numerous heated exchanges with Anderson Silva and Vitor Belfort, to engaging in an all-out brawl with Wanderlei Silva on “The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 3,” Sonnen isn’t afraid to push the buttons of proud Brazilians.

In Machida’s case, however, Sonnen has veered clear of engaging in his signature trash talk ahead of Friday’s clash. In fact, “The American Gangster” has been quite complimentary of his opponent- – a surprising maneuver that even caught Machida off guard.

“He’s a little bit quiet, and I don’t understand yet,” Machida smirked. “But maybe he wants to say something the day of the fight. But the day of the fight, there is no time to say things, (you just) fight. It’s up to him. I’m ready for anything.”

Known to fight fans for his respectful nature and humble demeanor, Machida isn’t switching up his persona for this bout, even if it is against one of the most infamous trash talkers of all time.

Machida isn’t afraid to predict a finish on Friday night. Actually, he’s already plotting his next move after defeating Sonnen.

“Knockout,” predicted Machida. He added, “I’m going to fight for the belt. It doesn’t matter if it’s 185 or 205, I want the belt.”

Bellator 222 takes place at Madison Square Garden in New York, with the main card streaming live on DAZN. The preliminary portion of the card will stream live on MMA Junkie.

For complete coverage of Bellator 222, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

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