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MIXED MARTIAL ARTS

Lyoto Machida, Mauricio Rua hold court to promote October fight

UFC light-heavyweight champion and challenger gather across the street from Staples Center to meet fans and talk about the bout.

September 02, 2009|Lance Pugmire

The last time the Ultimate Fighting Championship was held at Staples Center, the unknown was whether a gifted Brazilian champion could be defeated.

More than three years later, the question remains the same.

Lyoto Machida, the UFC's new light-heavyweight champion, is 15-0 and has never lost a round on a judge's scorecard in seven UFC fights.

"If I think about that, that's a lot of pressure," Machida said Tuesday, when he stopped across the street from Staples at LA Live to promote his Oct. 24 title defense -- his first -- against fellow Brazilian Mauricio "Shogun" Rua.

The most recent Staples UFC show was headlined by Brazilian mixed martial arts legend Royce Gracie, but he lost to Matt Hughes.

Now, Machida comes to Los Angeles appearing unbeatable after a second-round knockout of former champion Rashad Evans in May, a first-round knockout of Thiago Silva in January and a 2008 unanimous decision over former champion Tito Ortiz.

There has been frequent turnover of the light-heavyweight belt since 2007, when Quinton "Rampage" Jackson took the belt from Chuck Liddell. Jackson lost the belt to Forrest Griffin after one defense, Griffin lost to Evans in his first defense, then Evans was decked by Machida.

Now, Rua (18-3) says he has a plan to unseat Machida.

Rua says that his jiujitsu and Muay Thai skills will present a stiff test for Machida, and that he has developed a fight plan by watching Machida fight videos "every day. . . . I see it [going] my way."

However, Machida's deliberate, tactical style hasn't betrayed him and the champion told a crowd of about 500 on Tuesday that he'll "push [Rua] to my style during the fight."

Machida and Rua then withstood an hour's worth of the heat and ash-filled air from the Station fire to pose for individual pictures with 104 fans who gathered earliest for free tickets.

A Staples Center official said ticket sales for the UFC card are going well, even though it lacks the name recognition UFC previously brought to the Southland with Gracie and Hughes, and a Liddell bout in Anaheim in 2007.

UFC's lengthy absence from Los Angeles was a result of the organization's effort to get MMA legalized in several states and "wanting to get to these new markets as soon as we can," spokeswoman Jennifer Wenk said. "Plus, Staples is a very busy venue."

Also fighting on the card is heavyweight Cain Velasquez of San Jose (6-0), who will try to bolster his case for a shot at champion Brock Lesnar when he fights Ben Rothwell.

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lance.pugmire@latimes.com

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