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Evolving trumps history for Machida

LAS VEGAS -- When it finally came time for former UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida to make his long-anticipated move to middleweight, it just kind of happened. There was little fanfare.

The UFC called, offered Machida a fight at 185 pounds, and he accepted. In a way, it was more or less decided for him.

“I felt comfortable at 205 pounds,” Machida told ESPN.com. “I was always at the top of my weight class. But they offered me a chance at 185 and I took it.”

Not the most entrancing story -- but it's the outcome that's important. Machida was a middleweight.

A new (old) star will make a run at UFC history on Saturday, when Machida (21-4) meets 185-pound champion Chris Weidman at UFC 175 at MGM Grand Garden Arena.

If victorious, Machida would join Randy Couture and BJ Penn as the only fighters to ever win titles in more than one weight class. Coincidentally, Machida has beaten both Couture (April 2011) and Penn (March 2005) in his career.

Machida, 36, officially dropped to 185 pounds last year, but could have done it well before. He won the UFC light heavyweight title in May 2009, but relinquished it one year later to Mauricio Rua in a first-round knockout.

For years, it was assumed Machida wouldn’t drop in weight because his friend and occasional training partner Anderson Silva was the middleweight kingpin -- but as it turns out, that was never entirely accurate.

The two are definitely friends, but their careers aren’t dictated by that relationship. Machida can’t even remember the previous time they trained together and although Silva is familiar with Weidman (11-0), having fought him twice, they haven’t compared notes on the champion.

“I don’t think not moving to middleweight was ever about [Silva],” said Ed Soares, who manages both fighters. “Lyoto liked being the quicker guy at light heavyweight.

“He always believed he could work his way back up and beat Jon Jones, but there was a Plan B to reinvent himself at middleweight. And after that robbery loss to Phil Davis (Machida lost to Davis via decision last August), he was forced to take it.”

That controversial unanimous decision loss to Davis at UFC 163 might prove to have a positive effect on Machida’s career. Some would argue his move to middleweight was long overdue, even though he’s a young 36 due to his defensive fighting style.

Had he defeated Davis, who knows how long Machida would have stayed at 205?

“I think if I hadn’t lost to Phil Davis in that way, I imagine I’d still be at light heavyweight,” Machida said. “In reality, that weight class was a little stopped up so it was a good thing I moved down.”

In addition to dropping to a weight class that suits him far better, Machida started to work full time with Muay Thai instructor Rafael Cordeiro in Huntington Beach, California.

The two had worked together previously, but Machida says the partnership truly took off last year prior to his first middleweight fight. The results have been outstanding thus far, as Machida knocked out Mark Munoz in the first round of his 185-pound UFC debut, then dominated Gegard Mousasi in a five-round fight in February.

Having his game evolve under Cordeiro's eye is Machida’s current concern -- more so than rewriting UFC history this weekend. But whether it’s his focus or not, there’s little doubt that the fact he’s in position to do so has been great for his career.

“When people bring (winning titles in two weight classes) up, yeah I think about it and it’s a pretty cool opportunity but that’s not really motivating me," he said. "What’s motivating me is to train hard and go out and have a good performance.”