LOS ANGELES – Lyoto Machida was glassy-eyed and somber at the post-fight press conference for UFC 104.
He had defended his light heavyweight belt – the first time in over two years a 205-pound UFC champ had done so – but failed to deliver a performance that had brought him past accolades.
In fact, just about everyone thought he lost to Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, save for three California State Athletic Commission judges. When the judges made their call, boos echoed throughout the Staples Center.
Machida looked surprised at the decision and tried in vain to turn the crowd around with apologies. He and Rua were cordial, exchanging congratulations and a “good fight.”
Afterwards, Machida’s father Yoshizo and middleweight champion Anderson Silva lectured him on his mistakes backstage.
“They came in and told me some of the things I was doing wrong, and it’s a learning experience,” said Machida.
The champion declined to say whether he felt he had won the fight and said the decision was not his call.
“Every time you go in there, you always want to try and make the fans happy, and it’s a little depressing when they don’t cheer for you, when they boo you,” he said.
It was the first time in Machida’s UFC career that he’d lost a round, and the first time he’d emerged from a fight with the marks to prove it. The last time that happened was when he fought B.J. Penn as a heavyweight in March 2005. That, and a few dojo battles with his brother Chizo.
Rua spent the majority of the fight hacking at his legs, taking away the feints and explosive power that characterized his title grab over Rashad Evans at UFC 96, and before that, Thiago Silva at UFC 94.
Adding to the damage was a set of red lines across his left flank where Rua’s leg had found its mark.
“I didn’t really feel too much on the rib cage, but the legs, I started to feel it on the inside of one of my legs, and it was bothering me,” he said.
His vaunted accuracy all but disappeared in the sporadic exchanges with Rua.
Prior to the fight, there was some speculation among media members that Machida may have not been 100-percent – he was seen nursing a Kleenex in the days prior – but the champion said he was fine.
It was just a bad night.
“I was a hundred percent, but sometimes when you get in there, you’re strategy doesn’t always work exactly like you planned it to,” he said. “I would have liked to perform better, but it happens sometimes.
"I was looking to finish the fight whenever I could, but it showed that Shogun came very well prepared for this fight. I was constantly trying to find openings to finish the fight, but unfortunately, I didn’t get that."
All Machida could do was promise a better performance next time. He said he would go back to Belem and look at the fight again to begin the process of correcting his mistakes.
“It’s just going to motivate me to train harder and I can guarantee you I’m going to put a better performance next time,” he said.
Don’t be surprised if Rua is waiting for him when he gets back.
“If the UFC decides we should have a rematch, then let’s have a rematch,” said Machida.