by Tom Hamlin, MMAWeekly.com
From the outset of UFC 93’s post-fight press conference, it was clear Mauricio “Shogun” Rua had many questions to answer.
While he managed to stop former UFC heavyweight champion Mark Coleman in the final seconds of their co-main event fight, his gas tank ran empty after just one round with the 44 year-old Hall of Famer.
Widely regarded as the number one light heavyweight in the world at the time of Pride Fighting Championship’s collapse, Rua again appeared to be a shell of the fighter who dominated opponents in Japan.
Rua said two knee injuries sustained in 2007 and 2008 took more from him than he could have anticipated.
“I stayed sidelined for a year and a half,” explained Rua. “I went through surgeries and that was not easy. So that took a lot of my conditioning. It’s one thing to train, and another to fight, and when you get back to fighting you’ve got to get back in rhythm. So I think I paid a price because of that.”
Had Coleman not been equally unprepared, the outcome might have been far worse. But Rua said he was unsurprised when he was taken down repeatedly in the fight, even as his foe was exhausted.
“I didn’t get surprised at all because I knew that Coleman was a really strong guy, and also I knew that he’s a great wrestler,” said Rua. “I fought him three years ago, so I already had a strong sense of his strength as a wrestler and his power, and I knew that it would be a hard fight.”
For a fighter with a lesser name, the performance might have cost him a trip to the bench, if not a pink slip. But UFC president Dana White, perhaps wanting to satisfy a match-up long dreamed by fans, offered the Brazilian a main event against Chuck Liddell at UFC 97 in April. Rua was quick to promise a better showing next time out.
“I’m sure by my next fight I will be more prepared (and) in better shape, and better conditioning to give my fans a great show,” he said.
Rua says he will take his comeback as slowly as one can for an April return against one of the sport’s hardest punchers. Saturday’s performance did not quash his dreams of UFC gold, no matter what the feedback.
“Obviously my dream, as any fighter, is to have the UFC belt,” he said. “But I know that my weight class is full of great fighters—the toughest weight class in the world right now in MMA—so all I have to think about is my next fight. I have to focus on my next fight, train for my next fight, take one step at a time. I’m a guy with many dreams. Thank god I was able to fulfill a number of those dreams already, and I hope to keep fulfilling the other dreams that I have.”