Caio Machado is both making up for lost time and making a whole lot of noise in 2021.
Already 2-0 this year, the 27-year-old Battlefield Fight League (BFL) heavyweight champion competes for the third time in the last eight months on Friday, stepping into the cage for a second time with Canadian pioneer Lee Mein in the second of the Vancouver-based promotion’s back-to-back fight cards taking place Thursday and Friday night at the BMO Theatre Centre.
“As soon as the competition was back, I was excited to jump in,” said an excited Machado, who was forced to spend all of 2020 on the sidelines as the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the BFL schedule for the year. “I think I train harder, I focus more when I know I have a fight coming up, so it gives me motivation to keep improving myself, and as long as I’m healthy, I want to be fighting every two months or three months.”
Given the way he’s performed so far this year, it’s easy to understand why Machado wants to keep active.
In March, he got the better of Mein, who steps in this week on short notice for Ron McCarty, stopping the veteran roughly three-and-a-half minutes into the opening round. Just under three months later, he returned to the cage and ran through Unified MMA heavyweight titleholder Chris Larsen, felling and finishing the big man in a little more than half a round.
Currently riding a four-fight winning streak, the affable Brazilian prospect recognizes he’s in the midst of a major developmental period and believes that this fight — like each fight before it — will be the best performance of his career.
“I’m at a point right now where every fight is two or three leaps forward; I’m 100 percent better than the fight before,” said Machado, who trains at Franco Martin Kickboxing/Pankration. “I see more openings, I feel more comfortable in the cage, I improve my game in training. There are still things I can tweak, I can adjust here and there, but for sure I’m a totally different fighter from how I was at the beginning of the year and after the last fight.
“I’m 27 years old right now and I feel like I’m reaching my physical prime and a point of my career where I’m just going up,” continued the Brazilian standout. “I think this is going to be my biggest performance so far because that has been the theme of my performances — every time I step in the cage, I’m improving 100, 200 times from the time before.
In addition to being his third fight of the year, Friday’s bout with Mein marks the third straight appearance on UFC FIGHT PASS for Machado, who is acutely aware of the increased attention competing on the UFC’s streaming platform brings each time he steps into the cage.
“It’s a great opportunity fighting on FIGHT PASS. I can tell the difference in recognition I’ve been getting from the media and from fans, which is good to see,” he said with a laugh. “I’m working to get to the next level, to get to the international level of competition, and being on FIGHT PASS is a great opportunity to get more eyes on me because I have the opportunity to show my skills and my art to a bigger audience.”
And Machado knows he has what it takes to compete at the next level — not simply because the innate confidence every athlete feels about their own skills or his current top form, but also because he’s logged time on the mats with another former BFL heavyweight champion who has competed and thrived international in two sports and came away feeling good about the experience.
“With Arjan, he’s been there, he’s done that, and he’s fighting at the level I want to fight at, so it was a good experience,” Machado said of his previous experience training with Arjan Bhullar, who graduated from Battlefield to the UFC in 2017 and won heavyweight gold under the ONE Championship banner earlier this year. “I was going there to see how I would handle myself against a guy who fought in the UFC, who is fighting world-class competition, and I felt good about how it went.
“He’s a world-class wrestler and that’s a style that I was lacking the most at the beginning of my career, so it was a great opportunity to work my skills and just watch some good wrestlers.
“It was a great to experience the difference of the pressure from a guy of his level, but also watching different guys and learning some of their moves,” added Machado. “There are not many heavyweights around the world that are the same kind of wrestler as Arjan, so if I can work with him, I know I can work with those guys.”
Confident that he can hang with next level heavyweights, Machado is looking forward to moving one step closer to getting the chance to prove that on a larger stage when he steps back in opposite McCarthy on Friday night, when he’ll have a few new supporters in the crowd for the first time.
“It’s going to be the first time my parents are watching me live — they came all the way from Brazil — and the first fight since my kid was born, so I have so much happening that I’m excited to go out there and put on a show,” said the excited heavyweight. “I’m ready to bring the fight to him and be in his face from (the opening second).
“I will knock this guy out,” he added. “I wish I could go for a submission because it’s a part of my game that I really enjoy, but I haven’t had a chance to go to the floor because the fights are finished before we get there.”
And if everything goes according to plan, this just might be the performance that earns Machado the chance to compete at the next level.
“My goal is to get to the UFC and build myself in the heavyweight division,” he said. “With a third win this year, a third title defense, and a five-fight winning streak, I hope this fight will finally open the door for me.”