Lyoto Machida is recovering from elbow surgery. | Photo: Marcelo Alonso

Lyoto Machida has an opponent in mind for his return.

A little less than two months after he failed in his bid to dethrone light heavyweight champion Jon Jones at UFC 140, the man they call “The Dragon” has set his sights on a potential matchup with two-time Olympian and former two-division Pride Fighting Championships titleholder Dan Henderson. The 41-year-old Henderson has not fought since he outpointed Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in a five-round classic in November.

“I would be really honored to face him,” Machida told in an exclusive interview. “At 41 years old and competing at such a high level, he’s an example for our sport. The fight he had with ‘Shogun’ was unbelievable. I think we could have a great fight.”

Machida underwent surgery on his injured left elbow earlier this month and has made significant progress in his recovery. He expects to return to training in roughly two weeks.

“I’m still feeling a little pain,” Machida said, “but the doctor said I’ll be ready to train in 15 days.”

If Henderson proves unavailable or out of reach, the 33-year-old karateka claims he would also welcome a bout with Chael Sonnen, a man who has not endeared himself to the Brazilian community. In fact, Machida challenged the Team Quest mainstay publicly after undergoing elbow surgery. Sonnen faces “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 3 winner Michael Bisping in a middleweight title eliminator at UFC on Fox 2 on Saturday in Chicago.

“Actually, I never had an interest in facing him, but he did so much trash talking that I started to have an interest because I’m not the kind of person who likes to say a lot of bad stuff about my opponents,” Machida said. “I’d rather fight and see what happens. I think that fight could happen, but that will depend on whether or not he fights Anderson [Silva].”

Like most of his countrymen on the UFC roster, Machida has an admitted interest in securing a spot on the event planned for June 16 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. However, in a perfect world, he would compete sometime between now and then.

“I’ll be ready to train in 15 days,” Machida said. “I would love to fight in Sao Paulo, but I hope I can fight one time before that event.”

Machida has not competed since being rendered unconscious by a Jones guillotine choke at UFC 140. He believes he made a major tactical error against the reigning 205-pound champion.

“I got so confident in the first round that I allowed him to shorten the distance in the second,” Machida said. “That was my biggest mistake.”

The defeat to Jones notwithstanding, Machida seems confident about the year ahead and dreams of someday fighting at a UFC event in his hometown of Belem, Brazil.

“We have fans, and we have a stadium that seats 50,000 people,” he said. “To fight in a UFC there would be a dream come true. I’ll pray for that. After all, 2012 is the ‘Year of the Dragon.’”

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