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Ricardo Arona: ‘I Can Beat Anyone,’ Machida Included


More than two years have passed since Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou knocked out Ricardo Arona at the final Pride Fighting Championships event in Japan. Viewed by most as one of the top light heavyweight fighters in the world in 2005 and 2006, Arona disappeared from the mixed martial arts scene in wake of Pride’s demise.

“The Brazilian Tiger” — who built his reputation, in part, on the back of a 1999 victory over Jeff Monson in the absolute final of the Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships — will return to MMA this Saturday when he meets UFC veteran Marvin Eastman in the Bitetti Combat Nordeste 4 main event in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It will also mark the first time Arona competes inside a cage.

“I always thought the cage was even better for my game,” Arona said. “I like to use elbows on the ground, which I couldn’t do in Pride. Also, I can’t wait to fight for my fans.”

The Brazilian promises to compete at the level that made him successful inside Pride, when he scored wins over two-time Olympian Dan Henderson, former Pride middleweight king Wanderlei Silva, Japanese legend Kazushi Sakuraba and reigning Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem. The 38-year-old Eastman has lost two of his past three fights.

Marcelo Alonso/

Arona is no joke on the mat.

“He is very experienced and deserves all respect,” Arona said, “but I’m well-trained and coming to win and make a great exhibition for my fans.”

Though focused on Eastman, Arona still wants a crack at the American market. The 31-year-old carries with him a strong resume. His only career losses have come to Sokoudjou, Silva, 2005 Pride middleweight grand prix winner Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, former UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and the great Fedor Emelianenko.

“I’ll wait for a proposal,” Arona said. “Of course, I would love to fight in the UFC, because it’s for sure the best event, but I’m also studying some other proposals. I’m waiting calmly for my time. I’m ready to do my best in the ring or in the cage.”

Arona indicated he would welcome a shot at current UFC light heavyweight titleholder Lyoto Machida, now the top dog in the 205-pound weight class. The undefeated Machida will defend his belt for the first time against Rua in the UFC 104 main event next month in Los Angeles.

“He’s defending Brazil well in the MMA world, and I respect him a lot, but if I get into the UFC and have to fight Lyoto, I’d go to win,” Arona said. “He’s a great champion, but if I’m well-trained, I know my potential; I can beat anyone.”

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