Lyoto Machida’s spectacular front kick KO of Vitor Belfort is evidently the final strike he’s thrown in the UFC.
The former light heavyweight champion’s contract had expired after UFC 224, and according to ESPN’s Ariel Helwani, Machida “has verbally agreed to an exclusive multi-fight contract” with Bellator MMA. This news follows the UFC removing Machida from its official rankings.
Machida is currently on a two-fight winning streak, having beaten Eryk Anders in a five-round main event back in February. “The Dragon” held a record of 16-8 inside the Octagon, including winning the 205-pound title with a vicious KO of Rashad Evans back in 2009. Following a controversial win over Mauricio Rua in his first defense, he lost the belt by KO to Shogun in the immediate rematch.
After losing to Phil Davis in 2013, Machida moved down to middleweight and made an immediate statement by defeating Mark Munoz and Gegard Mousasi. Those wins earned him a title shot against Chris Weidman, but Machida fell short in what was a thrilling five-round decision. After stopping C.B. Dollaway in 62 seconds, Machida endured an ugly three-fight losing streak, all by knockout or submission, and during that stretch he was handed an 18-month USADA suspension after testing positive for 7-keto-DHEA.
Machida was able to end his 11-year UFC stint on a high note, and now he’s embarking on a new chapter in his long and storied career.
There’s no word yet on when Machida’s Bellator debut will be, but the 40-year-old does intend to fight again before the end of the year.