Former UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida knows the stars aligned in his favor.
Machida returns from a drug suspension this Saturday night at UFC Fight Night 119, taking on Derek Brunson in his home country of Brazil. “The Dragon” tested positive last year for a banned substance and was removed from a planned fight with Dan Henderson.
“It’s a unique opportunity for me,” he said. “I am coming back, in my country, with the crowd on my side, everyone helping me. It’s a different environment. I am very happy.
“I waited a long time to get back to the Octagon, it’s a moment I have been waiting for. I worked hard to get here and it’s what I like to do. It’s a dream come true to come back, I’m enjoying it all, from the little things – traveling, the media commitments, making weight, everything that is involved in fight week.”
Machida (22-7) hasn’t fought since the summer of 2015 when he was knocked out by Yoel Romero in the third round. He is just 1-3 over his last four, also falling to former champions Luke Rockhold and Chris Weidman.
It was seven years ago that Machida lost the UFC title to Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in a rematch. He also fell in a championship fight with Jon Jones a year later and his bout with Weidman was for the middleweight belt.
As for Brunson, Machida says he “is a complete fighter, a guy who even though he is a wrestler, he is good in other disciplines, punching and kicking. But I think he will use his strength with is grappling and clinching.”