Few words promises heavy action at UFC 98
Final press conference report by Anthony Springer Jr
Photos by Mary Ann Owen
After several months of promotion for this Saturday’s UFC 98: Evans vs. Machida, the featured fighters proved to be men of few words at yesterday’s press conference.
UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans, Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida, Matt Hughes, and Matt “The Terror” Serra appeared together one last time before their respective matches to answer any final questions. However, it seemed that the men were just ready to get in the ring and fight.
UFC President Dana White did most of the talking, and heaped much deserved praise on his two main event fighters. Both Evans and Machida have been overlooked and criticized in the past, but White acknowledged that the two have clawed their way up the ranks of MMA’s most stacked division. The winner of Saturday’s main event, in White’s mind will rightfully claim the title of best light heavyweight on the planet.
“The guy who wins this fight Saturday night will not only be the UFC light heavyweight champion, but he will be the best 205 pounder in the world,” an enthusiastic White told the press.
Often criticized for having an “elusive” style, Machida has come a long way to silence naysayers, as White also noted.
“Here’s the reality: Lyoto Machida has been finishing fights lately,” White said before running down a list of Machida’s UFC victims. “[He] destroyed Sokoudjou, destroyed [Thiago] Silva, dropped Tito [Ortiz] with a knee, loved it.”
Machida seemed perfectly content to let White speak for him and kept his statement short and to the point.
“I will try to finish this fight before the end,” the challenger stated.
“Sugar” Rashad Evans may have other plans. The defending champion stated his desire to emulate Matt Hughes and have a long championship run in the tough light heavyweight division. To do that, he must get past Machida first—and that’s exactly what Evans intends to do.
“I have a tough fighter in front of me in Lyoto Machida and he’s on his game,” Evans said. “We’re going to see what happens, but I’m definitely going to win.”
Evans remains the underdog coming into the fight, but as Dana White noted, the champion has a history of defying the odds.
“This kid has proved everybody wrong, over and over and over again,” White said of Evans’ progression. “He started as a wrestler, next thing you know he’s knocking people out with head kicks [and] knocking people out with his hands.”
Perhaps more intriguing than the main event is the co-main event, which features the two Matt’s, Serra and Hughes finally settling a two-year-old grudge. White called the rivalry the biggest in UFC history, a point Serra reiterated when he had a chance to speak.
“I’m just happy that it’s finally happening, I feel like I’ve been training forever,” Serra said of the opportunity to fight the man he does not personally like. It was a three month camp and I’m in phenomenal shape.”
“There’s no place I’d rather be than staring across the cage from Matt Hughes on Saturday night.”
After dropping two of his last three bouts, Matt Hughes comes into Saturday’s co-main event with something to prove. With 50 professional fights under his belt, and 2 welterweight title runs, many question if Hughes still has that “ummph” that a professional fighter needs to have to compete at the highest levels.
Hughes believes that he does.
“I’m very healthy for this fight, I had a great training camp,” the 35-year-old welterweight said. “My body has really worked with me and I’m injury free.”
Though Hughes and Serra While may bury the hatchet when the final bell sounds, don’t look for the pair of former champions to make any public appearances together.
“I don’t think you’re going to see them hanging out at Tryst,” Dana White said of the pair.