After a Career in Japan, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira is Excited for UFC Fight at Home

August 25, 2011
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Brazilian mixed martial artist Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira has spent most of his professional career fighting in Japan, most notably under the Pride Fighting Championships banner. During his time there, he was heralded as one of the best heavyweights, not only in the organization, but also in the world.

Nogueira’s world-class jiu-jitsu combined with sharp boxing and strong overall game earned him the Pride heavyweight title a decade ago, while at the same time, garnered the respect of MMA fans from all across the globe. From Japan to the United States, Europe and his home country of Brazil, “Big Nog” has touched the hearts of diehard fans for several years.

What is surprising is that with all his accomplishments and countless memorable performances overseas, Nogueira is yet to fight within the borders of where he resides. But with UFC 134: Rio, Rodrigo is finally getting his chance to put on a show for his fellow countryman and display his prowess live for the Brazilian faithful.

The excitement to fight in front of the supportive home crowd can hardly be contained, especially after waiting 40 fights to do so.

“It’s going to be my first fight in Brazil (and) my 40th fight of my career,” Nogueira said at the UFC 134: Rio press conference. “And I’m very excited to fight here. I’ve never had the chance to fight (with) the whole crowd on my side.”

Traveling to Japan to fight for the Pride promotion for all those years couldn’t have been an easy excursion. While there, Nogueira wouldn’t have a lot of familiar faces to support him, other than a few exceptions, and sleeping in his own bed was obviously not in the cards for the Brazilian heavyweight.

Now fighting in the UFC, “Big Nog,” at this late stage in his career, has more opportunity than ever before to fight all over the world. UFC 134: Rio couldn’t be a better set-up for the former Pride heavyweight champ.

Heck, he could close up the doors to his gym and take a two-minute ride to the venue for his fight on Saturday night.

With everything related to fight week being so convenient for him in Rio de Janeiro, Nogueira doesn’t feel any pressure going into his bout with Brendan Schaub. Actually, the mood seems as though there is no pressure whatsoever. The vibe and energy Nogueira feels from the home crowd and anticipated family in attendance motivates the MMA veteran to perform that much more in Rio.

Just as this is his first time fighting in Brazil, it is also the first opportunity for his daughter and father to witness him fight in person.

“The arena is just one mile from my gym, so I know all my students are going to be there,” he said. “(It’s) the first time I’m going to fight in front of my family, my daughter, and my father. I’m very excited for that. (Seeing) the energy and all the people on our side, (I’m) going to take it as support, instead of the pressure.”

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  • wonggfan

    Big Nog has made enough money and built enough fame to live comfortably.

    Like Wandy, this punch-drunk former champ’s reaction and chin has gone down a notch or two. That is why that even though he has the overall skills, he is always that one punch late. And for a fighter at the top level of the game, a split second is heaven or hell.

    I think he is gonna get knocked out in Rio. But I don’t worry about him too much. Unlike other pioneers of the sport, he has money/fame.

  • wonggfan

    “The arena is just one mile from my gym, so I know all my students are going to be there,” he said. “(It’s) the first time I’m going to fight in front of my family, my daughter, and my father. I’m very excited for that. (Seeing) the energy and all the people on our side, (I’m) going to take it as support, instead of the pressure.”

    Pretty much this means that he is going to get pwned by a nobody in his own backyard.

    Brendan Schaub is a nobody. The UFC should have sent him to the SF tourney so that be can take Overeem’s place. That would have been a good learning experience for Schaub.

  • Unador

    This has all of the warning signs of a classic LOSS for an ex champion fighting in his hometown for the very first time.
    Schaub is a nobody. But he isn’t a chump. He’s younger with more energy, and he has very crisp stand up. Nog does not.
    I think Nog may be thinking the UFC has served him up Schaub for an easy victory in his home town, and that is not the case.
    Sadly, Nog likes to endure a lot of punishment before he attempts the victory. Like Nog vs Tim Silvia.
    Not only is he going to lose in his home town, he’s going to let this kid mess his face up real good in the process and make the loss just that much worse.
    I like both these guys, and hate to see either lose, but I think this is a bad match up for Nog, and he’s underestimating the ‘noname’ opponent.

    • wonggfan

      Again, not saying Schaub is good. Because we all know that his days in the UFC are numbered. As soon as Schaub fights anyone decent, he is going home.

      But Nog’s reaction time has slowed down over the years. After 10+ years of getting hit on the head, this guy has difficulty reacting to punches. In addition, his chin has taken a tremendous toll. Nog is punch-drunk.

      Did you see the the CC Schaub fight? That fight showed that Schaub will most likely never make champion. It also showed how washed up these old school guys are.

      Nog should have asked for an easier fight in Rio. He should have asked for Tim Hague, grind out a decision, and retire.

      I wonder what guys like Chuck, Nog, and Wandy could do to revive their chins?

  • wonggfan

    Come on! Mike Tyson retired after losing to nobodies! He said, “I am going to retire because it is doing dis-service to the sport for me to lose to fighters of this caliber.”

    I just don’t understand guys like Nog, CC, Wandy, and Chuck. Come on. In their respective primes, they would not have even thought about being in the same ring with low level fighters such as Chris Leben, Brenden Schaub, or Keith Jardine, let alone losing to them.

    Even Mike Tyson knows when to retire.

  • Unador

    Missed the CC Schaub fight, or rather, racking my brain and can’t figure out who CC is. I don’t expect Schaub to be champion, because I think he’s too susceptible to the KO. Roy Nelson showed us that. He also showed us that even as tall as Schaub is, he isn’t protecting the side of his head.

    as for champs fighting nobodies in the winter of their careers and getting losses.
    I think maybe they can’t admit to themselves they aren’t as good as they used to be. After all it takes a huge amount of confidence to fight, even if your not good, you have confidence.
    The other, sadly, has to do with money. Hate to see guys this late in life after a succeful career broke. But, it’s their own fault.