COSTA MESA, Calif. – Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Forrest Griffin are destined to dance a second time at UFC 134: Silva vs. Okami, an event also known as UFC: Rio due to its venue in Brazil.
The light heavyweights first faced each other in 2007 at UFC 76: Knockout. It ended with Griffin getting the submission win over an exhausted Shogun. MMA fans that followed him up to that point weren’t familiar with what they saw in the Octagon that night.
After the loss to Griffin – which also happened to be Rua’s UFC debut – many wondered if the fierce and ferocious “Shogun” they saw destroy opposition in Japan’s Pride Fighting Championships would have the same impact in the Las Vegas-based UFC as he did in the Far East. His performance in his new surroundings was nothing more than underwhelming. It left doubt in the hearts of Pride loyalists, and even more so, casual fans that were just being introduced to the young Brazilian.
Rua’s debut under the UFC’s banner, although it was expected with Pride’s purchase by the UFC’s parent company, Zuffa, may have come sooner than what was appropriate. Perhaps the eager 205-pound fighter should have waited a bit to allow a recent knee surgery to heal properly.
According to his head coach, Rafael Cordiero, the result of taking the fight when he did was a drop in the amount of time put in towards training for it.
“When he fought the first time with Forrest, he came from the (knee) surgery,” Cordiero told MMAWeekly.com. “He didn’t train a lot for the first fight. It’s no excuse, but now, what he’s going to do is different. He (doesn’t) have any injury. He’s ready for the fight.
“He going to offer Forrest one better fighter.”
Since dropping his debut to Griffin, this is the second time Rua has been under the tutelage of Cordiero. A few months after the loss, he left the Chute Boxe Academy in Curitiba, Brazil, wherein Cordiero was coach, to open up his own school, Universidade da Luta – which in English means University of Fighting.
But to prepare for the second going with Griffin, Rua moved himself and his family to Southern California to train at Kings MMA with Cordiero. The reunion of teacher and pupil has lasted for three months and made the former light heavyweight champion very happy. The two will continue to prepare until Rua and Cordiero move camp back down to Brazil to adjust to the time change and environment for UFC 134.
“I have Master Rafael (back) together with me and he’s my MMA coach,” Rua said to MMAWeekly.com. “I’m very happy because, for a long time, I haven’t had an MMA coach.
“I’m happy because I’m here, I’m focused 100 percent on my fight and I go back to Brazil next week.”
It may sound cliché, but Rua believes the rematch with Griffin will be entirely different than their first encounter. At this point, Rua has much more Octagon experience than he did the last time. Add on a UFC championship to the experienced gained and one can make the argument that it is, indeed, much different than it was the first time around.
As far as training goes, Rua is sparring with partners in Cordiero’s gym at near 100-percent speed. The high level of preparation showed in the gym gives the image that injuries may not affect Shogun leading into his UFC 134 bout.
The 2005 Pride middleweight tournament champion doesn’t seem to be slowing down at all when anticipating his upcoming fight.
“I have respect for Forrest. He’s a good fighter,” Rua said. “I (fought him) first in the UFC. (And) for me, everything was different because every time I (fought), it was in a ring. For me, it was very different. Now, I’m ready for a fight (in the Octagon) and (in) this fight, I’m 100-percent.
“I’m ready for everything, whatever way I win, I’ll be very happy.”
As the days to fight night continue count down, Shogun is planning to avenge a loss that many picked him to win. By returning to absorb the teachings of his old Chute Boxe coach, and gaining a renewed focus after losing his light heavyweight title to current champion Jon Jones, Rua is improving every day he is in the gym. The training partners he works with have provided him with the tools necessary to prep his body for the bout. The connection they all have is second to none and contributes to Rua’s motivation to perform well and be victorious on Aug. 27.
But while the physical part is covered by Rua’s sparring partners, the mental portion belongs to his coach, Cordiero.
“Every day, I see a different Shogun,” Cordiero said about his fighter. “He (trains) with great motivation because he trains with his old partners for the fight. It’s important he trains with guys (with which) he has a good connection.
“I want to prepare his mind for war. The (training) partners help his body. I want prepare his mind for war.”
Got something to say? Weigh in with a thought of your own in the comments section below.