In his nearly four years with the promotion, Nogueira enjoyed a short time as heavyweight champion, and even picked up a win over UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture. The downside, however, has bit him in the form of knockout losses to both Frank Mir and Cain Velasquez, and recently put him on the sideline dealing with knee and hip surgery.
There is a silver lining to the story. Nogueira has always been an active fighter, and the time off due to the surgeries has not only given him some mental recuperation, but more importantly it’s given his body proper time to heal.
The Brazilian is still in recovery and working to return from the multiple surgeries he’s had to undergo, but don’t expect the same Antonio Rodrigo Nogueria that last fought in the UFC to be the one that shows up when he returns.
“His recovery, his therapy is getting really good. His physical therapy, he’s doing really, really well. He’s walking better than he’s walked since I’ve known him. They fixed a lot of his injuries, and he’s recovering very, very well,” Ed Soares, Nogueira’s manager, told MMAWeekly Radio recently.
“He’s hungry. He wants to get back in there. A lot of people in the world, and a lot of people in the MMA world, think ‘oh Nogueira has had it, his best days are behind him,’ but I think people are going to be surprised when they see how well and how prepared when Rodrigo comes back.”
If the Nogueira from his prime days when he was fighting in Pride does return, the heavyweight division could have a new contender in the ranks in no time.
During his stint with the Japanese promotion, Nogueira was thought to be one of the top fighters on the planet, and possibly the most dangerous submission grappler to step foot in the heavyweight division.
While his time in the UFC has had both highs and lows, when Nogueira returns, he’s shooting for the stars.
“The number one thing on his mind is getting back in that Octagon and showing the world who Rodrigo Nogueira is,” Soares commented.
As far as a timeline goes, rumors had placed Nogueira possibly on the UFC 134 card in his native Brazil in August. While that remains a slight possibility, from the sound of his manager, the former Pride champion is likely to return a little later in the year.
“We’re hoping by the end of summer, early fall,” Soares answered when asked about Nogueira’s potential return time, not declaring a specific event.
Even if he’s not fighting, Nogueira hasn’t stopped training. He continues to work with several top UFC fighters including middleweight champion Anderson Silva and top heavyweight contender Junior Dos Santos.