Mauricio “Shogun” Rua looks to become just the second fighter to hold titles in both Pride and the Ultimate Fighting Championship when he challenges UFC light heavyweight titlist Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida at UFC 104 at The Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA on Oct. 24.
It’s been four years since Rua decimated a murderer’s row of MMA greats to become the PRIDE Middleweight Grand Prix champion. Since 2005 he has then battled freak injuries, Pride’s demise, an upset loss to Forrest Griffin in his UFC debut and an underwhelming showing against Mark Coleman at UFC 93 in January. But Shogun showed flashes of his old self when he knocked out Chuck Liddell at UFC 97 in April, putting himself in line for the title.
The Brazilian’s nagging injures are healed and he said through a translator that he’s “ready to fight,” and that it’s essential to be in top form when he faces Machida.
“It’s very tough to find him during the fight, to find the right distance because he has great timing,” explained Rua. “But I’m well prepared for sure with the right strategy. I’ve been preparing for four months straight about my game plan for this fight and I’m confident that I’m gonna perform well.”
The former Chute Boxe prodigy is preparing in a regulation sized cage at his Universidade da Luta gym and feels comfortable in the UFC’s environment and with championship level contention. “Shogun” believes he’s the underdog but he’s not the only one looking to prove himself at UFC 104.
“He looks at it like every time he’s stepping in there to defend the belt, he’s not there to defend the belt, he’s there to win the belt again,” said Lyoto Machida’s manager Ed Soares.
Once criticized for his technical, defensive style, Machida stopped Thiago Silva and Rashad Evans with punches quickly in his last two fights. The wins—credited to a new strength and conditioning program that powered up his already accurate strikes— have garnered much praise for Machida but “The Dragon” remains unconvinced of his own hype.
“I think nobody is unbeatable,” he said. Machida credits his focus to trying to remain undefeated on his support system, a family of Shotokan Karate black belts.
“I’m well prepared,” said Machida. “I’m fighting another great fighter and I’m gonna go in there and I’m always going to be looking to finish this fight and hopefully I’m able to do that.”
Rua looks to do the same thing, having stopped his opponents in16 of his 18 career wins. “Ever since I got to the UFC, my dream was always to become the champion of the show,” said Rua. “And I tried to take each fight at a time and focus on each fight as a step toward my goal, however, now my time has come.”