If you hang around the UFC long enough, you’ll find that the press love to ask UFC president Dana White if such and such a fight will earn the winner an opportunity to fight for a UFC title. White sometimes balks at answering those questions, other times he’ll state that yes indeed, the winners next fight will be for a UFC title.
The media didn’t even have to ask White that question at Thursday’s UFC 157 pre-fight press conference, the UFC president, responding to an inquiry about what he would need to see from Lyoto Machida in his bout against Dan Henderson, said:
I love this fight. Stylistically I think it’s a great fight. Machida has his style where he lays back and counter-punches and Henderson is move forward. He’s aggressive and in your face the entire time. I think the fight is going to be a great fight, and this fight is all about the winner, The winner gets a shot at Jon Jones.
The slip from White mentioning Jones is forgivable; Jones is after all the current champion and also the champion who will face Chael Sonnen at UFC 159. Jones was also the champion who had been set to face Dan Henderson at UFC 151.
That fight never came to be as Henderson was forced from the card due to an injured knee. The fight card was subsequently canceled when Jones turned down the late replacement bout against Sonnen.
The bout against Machida will be Henderson’s first fight since his memorable five round “Fight of the Year” candidate against Mauricio Rua on Nov. 19, 2011.
Machida has a loss to Jones on his record, being choked unconscious by the champion at UFC 140. He had the chance to avenge that loss at UFC 152, as he was offered a shot at Jones on short notice, but turned the opportunity down, citing lack of preparation time for a title fight, the same reason Jones balked at the Sonnen bout at UFC 151.
Since that loss to Jones, Machida got back in the win column when he knocked out Ryan Bader in August of last year.
The wild card in all of this is the fact that highly ranked light-heavyweight Alexander Gustafsson will face Gegard Mousasi in the main event of UFC on Fuel 9 in April, a bout that may throw a wrench into the plans for Henderson or Machida. But hey, a little added inspiration to earn a title shot never hurt; at least it has never hurt the fans.