Five days after becoming the Light Heavyweight Champion, Lyoto Machida, his father, brothers and friends, walked out of the baggage collection area of Belem’s International Airport into a crowd of hundreds, chanting his name. Overcome with emotion, Lyoto walked willingly into the midst of the crowd, shaking hands and receiving hugs.
The throng kept Lyoto’s progress to a snail’s pace as he worked his way towards the exit, where he and his team were placed on top of a fire engine and paraded to the Machida Academy, in the center of Belem. At the end of his fight against Rashad Evans, at UFC 98, shortly after receiving the belt, Lyoto proclaimed to the world “If you have a dream, go for it!”
This message has been taken to heart by every man, woman, and child in the northeastern region of Brazil. Many MMA fans in the USA do not understand the importance of Lyoto’s accomplishments to his fellow “Nordestinos” (residents of the northeastern region of Brazil). First, it is important to understand that, despite the unprecedented economic growth of Brazil in the last decade, the northeast has remained quite poor. As a result, unemployment runs high, government-funded economic development programs go to more affluent areas, and the youth of the region look elsewhere to make their future.
But not Lyoto Machida. Lyoto has managed to train and build a world-renowned reputation in MMA from his home; the small, ancient city of Belem. He has proven to the locals that any dream is attainable, yes, even in a small corner of the world. From the age of 15, Lyoto has worked towards the Championship Belt. His success has fueled the hopes and dreams of his fellow Nordestinos.
Indeed, Lyoto is a true hero.