Former UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida was set to make his middleweight debut against Tim Kennedy at Fight for the Troops 3, but a serious eye injury to Michael Bisping prompted him to face off with Mark Munoz the main event of UFC Fight Night 30 in Manchester, England.

It’s far from an easy debut for ‘The Dragon,’ as Munoz appears to be back in tip-top shape after destroying Tim Boetsch in a one-sided affair at UFC 162. Both Machida and Munoz have ties to the same training camp at Kings MMA, which is headed by famed coach Rafael Cordeiro. However, both know that the road to the belt may unfortunately mean fighting a friend. Cordeiro met up with Fighters Only to detail their business decision:

“Lyoto and Mark both trained together for a long time and they are both students of mine. I think this is going to be a great fight. For sure there’s some small problems with it - just two days before they got the call, they were training together at Gracie Torrance Jiu-Jitsu. I personally don’t like the fight because I like both guys, but they agreed to do it because they are professionals. They are going to prove that friends can fight against each other and keep a great relationship.”

Indeed the fight announcement could have made for an extremely awkward situation, but both Machida and Munoz are ultra-professional fighters. With their ultimate goal of a UFC championship in sight, a top-level bout such as this simply could not be turned down. The winner will find himself in prime bargaining position, perhaps facing off against the winner of UFC 168’s epic rematch between newly crowned champion Chris Weidman and Anderson Silva.

Cordeiro thinks that the winner of this bout should receive a title shot, just like surging middleweight ‘Jacare’ Souza should, creating a sort of logjam at the top of the 185-pound division:

“I think if Lyoto wins he gets the title shot but also you have Jacare, he did a great job in his last fight. I think he deserves the opportunity to fight for the belt. It doesn’t matter who is the champion. In my opinion everybody wants the belt, everybody fights for the belt. It’s a dream for all fighters so all guys in the top five or top ten deserve the chance to fight for the belt. Jacare deserves it, Lyoto deserves it. Mark works so hard; he deserves all the best also. So if guys have to fight, lets fight. Like right now Lyoto is going to fight with a friend and teammate. They don’t fight because they hate each other, they fight because they are professionals and they need to put food on the table for their children."

It’s hard to deny that the winner of Machida vs. Munoz will be towards the very top of the middleweight ladder in the UFC. Machida needs a statement after his controversial loss to Phil Davis at UFC 163. Although many felt that Machida won, he’s going to have to do a lot more than backpedal looking for a huge counter shot; it’s become obvious that this style won’t be rewarded by the judges.

‘Jacare’ has been destroying opponents since his UFC debut, last seen knocking Yushin Okami out in the first round at UFC Fight Night 28. Munoz looks hungry to prove that his knockout loss to Chris Weidman in July 2012 was a fluke, and appears highly motivated to put his name back into title talks. Add Vitor Belfort into the mix, and you have one of the most talent-laden championship scenes that the UFC middleweight division has ever seen.