Lyoto Machida makes his middleweight debut this weekend at UFC Fight Night 30 in Manchester, England, when he takes on friend and occasional training partner, Mark Munoz.
In the event of a win, Machida is of the mind that he will be ranked a minimum of number five in the division, which is a reasonable proposition, given that Munoz himself is currently ranked in that spot.
As such and should he win, the inevitable question of a title fight with friend and teammate Anderson Silva comes up; premised on the fact that Silva regains his belt this December 28th at UFC 168. Regarding the subject, Machida doesn’t want to discuss it, but in not doing so, his non-committal response, by default, means that he’s open to the possibility.
As Machida stated to MMAjunkie.com:
"We are friends, but it's too early to think about that; I'm just arriving in this class, and I have to keep my focus on this fight. I don't know about the future. That's why I say to everybody, I'm just arriving. It's hard to say about a title shot. Everybody is asking about it, but I prefer not to talk about it."
However, “The Dragon” also went on to say the following:
"I don't know how long he's going to fight. That's why I don't think about that."
In that statement a greater truth may have been revealed and that is, that Anderson will fight for the belt this December and win or lose, he will retire.
On the face of it, it would make a lot of sense.
If he beats current champion Chris Weidman and regains his belt, he will have once again climbed the highest echelons of the division and repudiated the one blemish on his UFC record. Further, it would cap any erosion to his legacy and leave him affirmed (most likely) as the greatest pound-for-pound fighter in UFC history.
Also and just as importantly to Silva, it means that the path would be clear for his friends and / or teammates Machida, Jacare Souza and Mark Munoz, to compete for the title.
Further, it would avoid any embarrassment that might stem from having one of them accept a fight with him, when he was unwilling to accept a fight with either of the three. On this point, we know Munoz would take the fight, Machida would be hard pressed to turn it down and Souza has said that he was prepared to fight anyone, if he had to.
Further still, we have the evidence of Machida & Munoz’s own bout on Saturday night. Here we have two of Silva’s friends, who are themselves friends, accepting a short notice fight with one another, because they want to climb the ranks and hold the belt; to become champions. As such, it examples as proof, that Silva’s friends are willing to set aside their friendships for professional advancement.
As none of these fighters are getting any younger and that they are all hungry, pose significant threats to Silva in a fight, want what he has already attained and are close friends of his, it wouldn’t be beyond reason to see how Silva could see the logic in retiring after a re-match victory over Chris Weidman.
Conversely, it's also easy to see how another loss to Weidman could push Silva into retirement; no case to be argued.
Taking all of it into consideration, Machida being unsure as to how much longer Silva may choose to fight for, could well end up being prophetic in his uncertainty.