If mixed martial arts were a giant corporation—and many of you would say this analogy is a little too close for comfort—and you had a job opening—let’s say, you were trying to fill the light heavyweight champion position—and the resume of Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida finds its way to your desk, what’s your reaction?
First off, let’s look at the position itself.
Historically, this is the job. You’re the head honcho, the CEO, the “Big Cheese." Two hundred and five pounds of it.
The UFC light heavyweight champ is always going to find himself at the epicenter of all things important in the UFC—with the possible exception of the very first title holder, Frank Shamrock, who vacated the title citing a lack of competition. The list of previous champs looks like this: Frank Shamrock, Tito Ortiz, Randy Couture, Vitor Belfort, Chuck Liddell, Rampage Jackson, Forrest Griffin, Rashad Evans.
This is not a partial list.
These are not highlights.
Everybody who held this title is on the short list of the most-recognizable names in MMA. Even the guys who are merely competing for it rate very highly on the visibility scale: Wanderlei Silva, Keith Jardine, Matt Hamill, and Rich Franklin, among others.
Knowing the qualifications, you have to ask yourself, is Machida your guy? Can he carry the torch? Is he ready to be a star?
I don’t think there’s any doubt the man can fight. If you look at that same short list of recognizable names, you’d see “The Dragon” has placed his check mark beside several of those names.
Stephan Bonnar, Rich Franklin, B.J. Penn, and Tito Ortiz have all failed to change the zero that has made its home in Machida's loss column.
The real question is this:
Are fans ready to ante up to see him fight?
Many of the previous champs were leaders of their own cults of personality. "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy," "The Natural," "The Iceman," even Forrest Griffin with his blood-and-guts, never-say-die attitude, have all captured imaginations to go with their titles.
What about the soft-spoken Machida?
He’s not flamboyant.
He’s not crazy.
He doesn’t howl when he wins a fight.
In fact, he’s content to win said fight via decision.
With Anderson Silva’s last two performances weighing heavy on his mind, is Dana White losing sleep over the possibility that the Black House training facility might add the light heavyweight title to Silva’s middleweight belt?