Lyoto Machida Believes Vitor Belfort Next in Line for Middleweight Title Shot

Duane FinleyContributor IJune 22, 2014

Lyoto Machida Dan Henderson during their UFC 157 light heavyweight mixed martial arts match in Anaheim, Calif., Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013. Machida won by split decision after the third round. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

There have been plenty of big moments in Lyoto Machida's career, and another huge opportunity is rapidly approaching. 

The former light heavyweight champion turned middleweight contender will square off against current titleholder Chris Weidman in the main event at UFC 175 on July 5 in Las Vegas, in what has become one of the most anticipated bouts of 2014.

The championship tilt will be Weidman's first showing inside the Octagon since upsetting former 185-pound king Anderson Silva in back-to-back outings in 2013.

The "All-American" will be looking to further cement his status as the best middleweight fighter on the planet and keep his undefeated record intact with a victory at UFC 175.

While Machida no longer carries the sheen of a flawless record with him into the Octagon, there will be no shortage of motivation where the Brazilian karate phenom is concerned.

"The Dragon" has been on a tear since dropping down into 185-pound waters last October, and his showdown with Weidman will give the 36-year-old the chance to put a definitive stamp on what has been an electrifying run through the middleweight ranks.

With two victories and a pair of impressive performances under his belt, Machida has certainly proven worthy of the title shot he is about to receive.

With that said, the opportunity to do so at UFC 175 is one that didn't come without a few twists and turns.

Andre Penner/Associated Press

The spot opposite the New York-based champion originally belonged to Vitor Belfort. However, it wasn't an opportunity the Brazilian knockout artist would hold on to for long, as he was removed from the bout shortly before he was set to apply for his license to fight.

While the reports were conflicting as to whether it was the UFC or Belfort himself that made the call to withdraw, there is no doubt the Nevada State Athletic Commission's decision to ban testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) played a pivotal role.

Suddenly, the former two-division title challenger was out, and the UFC tapped Machida to step in and face the undefeated middleweight champion.

Though the Team Black House fighter will be looking to capitalize on his opportunity to once again compete for UFC gold, Machida also believes Belfort should receive the next shot at the middleweight strap.

In a recent interview with, the former 205-pound titleholder addressed the matter of Belfort's position in the middleweight title picture.

"Logically, he's next in line," Machida said with the assistance on an interpreter.

Dec 28, 2013; Las Vegas, NV, USA;    Chris Weidman reacts in the cage after defeating Anderson Silva (not pictured) in their UFC middleweight championship bout at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

While Machida believes Belfort should get the next crack at the middleweight crown, several hurdles remain in the heavy-handed slugger's path before that opportunity would materialize.

The biggest of those obstacles will be receiving a license to fight, as Belfort recently released the results of a failed drug test that was administered randomly by NSAC back in February.

Nevertheless, while Belfort's road to the title remains uncertain, Machida's perspective on Weidman's legitimacy as champion is crystal-clear. The New York native shocked the world with his pair of wins over Silva, yet the manner in which those victories were obtained has left room for doubt in the minds of the passionate MMA fanbase.

Machida has taken a different perspective and believes he will step into the Octagon to face the best middleweight fighter in the world at UFC 175.

"There's no doubt he's the champion," Machida said. "He's the best there is in the weight class right now. He won those fights. You can't take away those merits."


Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.