Highly touted heavyweight prospect Brendan “The Hybrid” Schaub (8-1) will look to go from prospect to No. 1 contender at UFC 134: Rio this Saturday night when he meets the legendary Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (32-6-1) in Rio de Janeiro.
Walking into hostile territory against one of the greats in Nogueira, Schaub has felt a warm welcome in Brazil. However, the 28-year-old is cognizant of the fact that this is the Brazilian’s home turf and has prepared himself in training to be booed.
“I wish I could say that they wouldn’t be hostile to me, but at the same time they’ve treated me great down there and they’ve welcomed me with open arms,” Schaub told MMAWeekly Radio.
“I’ve spent a lot of time down there, mainly training in my gi with jiu-jitsu. I just think they just respect what I do. I haven’t been talking trash. I don’t think that’s the way to go when you’re fighting guys like Nogueira, Mirko ‘Cro Cop’ (Filipovic).
“When I spar, we’ve downloaded an app where people boo you and we put it on the loud speakers here. I’ve prepared mentally for that. I think people are going to boo me, but when Nogueira starts doing his thing more people will start cheering for him more than booing me and I’ll definitely get more boos after I beat him.”
Since losing to Roy Nelson at the TUF 10 Finale, Schaub won three of his past four fights via knockout and also won a lopsided unanimous decision victory over Gabriel Gonzaga.
“After The Ultimate Fighter Finale, my first fight in the UFC was Chase Gormley, another up-and-comer. Then Chris Tuchsherer was a tough guy and I had passed those tests with flying colors, so I asked for a step up in competition.
“I asked for a big named guy, who’s been a contender, and boy did I get it with Gabriel Gonzaga. It was my first real test. It’s kind of a lets see what you’re made of. I kind of picked him apart. It was a pretty lopsided three-round fight. Then shoot man, I get Mirko Cro Cop, and then that was definitely the toughest fight for me. I was going almost three rounds and I took some punishment and I had to use my wrestling and shoot down fighting one of the best heavyweights of all-time.”
Many fans and pundits observing Nogueira’s Octagon performances have felt that he hasn’t looked like his former self. However, the Colorado native is planning on fighting an in-shape Nogueira and he feels that the Brazilian has been well rested with all the time off.
“These previous guys that have beat him, like Frank Mir and Cain Velasquez, they’ve gone on for title shots. No one beat him in his hometown; no one beat him in Brazil. So I think it’s the closest thing you can get to a title fight as far as pressure goes and that’s why I wanted this fight.
“If I were to go in and win in convincing fashion, I believe it puts me right in there for the winner of (the heavyweight title fight between) Cain (Velasquez) vs. Junior Dos Santos. I think if you look at the layout in the land of the UFC heavyweight division, I have as good an argument as any of those guys. It’ll be my fifth win in a row, to beat Gonzaga, Cro Cop, and then Nogueira in his backyard on such a big stage, it’ll put me up there and I think I match up well with either of those guys.”