The Dragon.
The Dragon.

On Saturday L.A. Becomes Fighter Town USA

The Ultimate Fighting Championship comes to Los Angeles Saturday for UFC 104. Newly crowned star Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida will defend his light-heavyweight title against fellow Brazilian Maurico "Shogun" Rua.

The bout at Staples Center will showcase the 31-year-old, undefeated champ, who's father is Japanese and whose mother is Brazilian. His multidisciplinary, highly-trained style with roots mostly in karate, represents the more-genteel future of what was once thought to be a bloody, feral sport.

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Machida is a technician whose modesty and hard training (reported to include six hours a day in the gym) has led some to dub him the "karate kid" of the UFC. He's a fighter who has yet to lose a round in an organization where one lucky swing to the jaw can decide a bout. He's triumphed over Tito Ortiz and knocked out Rashad Evans.

It's the first time, however, that the low-profile striker will be carrying a UFC card without a grudge match lower on the card to help stir up drama and ticket sales. Rua is a product of the Japanese circuit called Pride, which was merged into UFC. Although he can be a powerhouse -- he's knocked out Chuck Lidell -- he's been plagued by injury and is on a comeback tour.

Machida grew up in a household of intense discipline. His father owns a dojo, and Machida woke up at sunrise each morning to train as a child. He still works out at his family gym in Brazil, and he still mentions his father as a source of inspiration.


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