Two of Canada’s top heavyweights are set to clash on Friday night.
Vancouver, B.C.’s Caio Machado (4-1-1) will defend his BFL heavyweight title in the main event of BFL 67 against Edmonton, Alta.’s Christian Larsen (5-1). The showdown takes place on UFC Fight Pass on June 4.
Primarily training out of Franco Kickboxing Pankration, Machado, 26, welcomed a new face to his training camp this time out.
A significant figure in Machado’s preparation for this bout was the newly-minted heavyweight champion in ONE Championship, Arjan Bhullar.
“For me, it’s really good to feel myself against a guy of that level. Arjan, right now, is a world champion. It’s good because I know the pressure and the style he fights is usually the style that is most annoying for me, the wrestling,” said Machado in an interview with MMA Empire.
“I used to have some problems with it and some more trouble. I’m more of a striker, so it was good to get in there, feel that wrestling pressure, that level of wrestling. Olympic wrestler, ONE FC champion, former UFC fighter. I know whatever he gave to me no one around here can give me that kind of pressure, so it was a really good experience.”
Machado’s lone career loss to Dustin Joynson provided a wake-up call that he needed to shore up his wrestling game and deal with unrelenting pressure from opponents more efficiently. He said he’s been working off his back, working off the cage, and learning more general defensive wrestling since the Joynson loss.
Machado’s growth has been measurable, even beyond the microcosm of his wrestling. Over the last five years, he has trimmed down fifty pounds and found a renewed sense of direction with training martial arts in Canada.
He feels like his cardio and speed stacks up to the best heavyweights on the planet and weaponizing pace has been a pronounced focus over the years for him.
“A lot of heavyweights have big trouble with that kind of intensity, so we see a lot of heavyweight fights either end quickly with a one-punch knockout or they go with a really slow pace,” said Machado.
“I know I have heavy hands and I haven’t been dropped yet. I’m still working, but imposing a bigger pace, that will always be an advantage for me in that division.”
Machado’s last outing was a big first showing on UFC Fight Pass as he not only defended his gold, but did so with a stunning knockout of Canadian MMA pioneer Lee Mein.
“Honestly, it was a really good performance, but I was kind of expecting to go a little bit longer just because I always want to show my skill set,” said Machado.
“I feel like the local MMA scene is a lot about getting improved and getting more used to the cage. Also being able to show myself; so because I have the extra cardio, I’m not always looking for the quick knockout. I want to be able to pace myself, play my game, and show dominance, then finish the fight. It was quicker, but I always go with the shark mentality. If I smell blood, I will attack. That’s what happened.”
The Mein methodology is something that Machado understands he will have to tinker with as he prepares to test skills with Larsen this time out.
“I watched a couple fights of him, including last time he fought Lee Mein because it was a common opponent so I could compare a little bit better. He looks very strong; he is probably the most dangerous fighter I have encountered. Knockout power… he has that power to drop me out, so I need to be more aware, keep my head up and my defence game.”
“I don’t see much on his game plan. He has heavy hands and he goes for the knockout, but I couldn’t see more than that. I don’t know if it’s because he has such a good knockout rating, but in all his fights, even the one with Lee (Mein) that went a little bit longer, it’s always haymakers. No kicking game, no knees. I see myself as a more versatile fighter. I’m a more complete martial artist, so that’s going to be the difference in this fight for me.”
Beyond his successes in the cage, Machado has been growing in his personal life as his fiancee, Gaby, readies to welcome a baby to the world.
“Good things happening since we figured out she’s pregnant. The baby’s coming at the end of June, so hopefully have an amazing June. With a title defence and a baby on the way, couldn’t be better.”
“Of course, everyone at FKP that’s been training with me for all this time. Also, my sponsors from The Van Burn Group, DLM Project Services LTD, Ruscitti Bros Ventures Inc., Drive Marketing Group, Action Athletic Wear. Also, Forth Media Brazil, my nutritionist, Rodolfo, has been helping me to work with social media and nutrition. Also a big hug to my fiancee Gaby that’s carrying my baby, my firstborn kid. She’s been working a lot with this pregnancy. She’s suffering a little bit, but we’re getting there. We’re almost one month away and we are excited to see this baby. She’s my rock, she’s been there for me. We were together for a couple of years and now we’re getting excited to have this kid, getting married, and bigger, better things. Last but not least, Chris Larsen. Let’s rock, let’s put on a show, it’s going to be a great fight. I am excited to square up with you and figure out who’s the best heavyweight in Canada right now.”