Last week, former UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida broke news by announcing that he’s signed a multi-fight deal with Bellator MMA after more than 10 years with the UFC.
Although it has recently been reported that the UFC tried to match the offer from Bellator, Machida still decided to go with Bellator because, according to him, he’s a man of his word.
Regardless of his intention, it is most definitely a good career move for the aging, 40-year-old fighter whose days of elite-level competition are probably behind him now, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
It seems many aging fighters out there seem to have this romantic notion of ‘finishing their fight career in the UFC’ with hopes of ‘one last title run’ and that thinking has led to some disastrous consequences.
We’ve seen this recently in the case of Rashad Evans (whom Machida originally took the title from in brutal fashion), who probably would have been better served going over to Bellator several years back where not only the competition isn’t quite at the same level as UFC, but also, they seem to know how to treat their aging fighters with far more favorable matchups.
While Bellator has made some great strides with their roster recently under the excellent leadership of Scott Coker, it is still not quite on the same level as the UFC, and there is nothing wrong with being the second-best mixed martial arts promotion on the planet.
After a USADA violation in 2016 for the relatively innocuous substance, DHEA, we saw Machida taken out of action for 18 months, which, at 38, hurts a lot more than at 28 and at the time, many felt Machida’s career was probably coming to an end.
However, after serving out his suspension, Machida was initially knocked out in his return-bout versus Derek Brunson in October 2017, but subsequently came back and beat a tough, undefeated young prospect, Eryk Anders, and most recently brutally knocked out Vitor Belfort at UFC 224 in vintage Machida fashion, raising his stock considerably before recently announcing this move to Bellator.
Hopefully, more aging fighters follow Machida’s lead here and choose to fight out the twilight of their careers against more similarly-skilled opposition, instead of being thrown to the wolves like we’ve seen time and time again.