After 18 months out of the Octagon, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira was ready to shout it from the rooftops of Rio after knocking out rising heavyweight star Brendan Schaub at UFC 134 Rio on Saturday night…
“I’m back man, I’m back!” he proclaimed in a UFC post-fight interview.
“The fight was tough. Brendan bring a lot of his heavy hands,” said the elder Nogueira brother. “But I was saving the right hand for him. I trained that a lot and I did (it). I knocked him out in Brazil. (It) was my first fight in Brazil; my fight number 40.”
It wasn’t an easy road to Rio, however. Nogueira had long been plagued with knee and hip related issues. When the pain finally became too much, when he had enough of being told he looked much older than his – at the time – 34 years, the former Pride and UFC champion decided it was time to go under the knife.
“I just had surgery on my hip eight months ago. I was walking on crutches for four months. I had less than four months training for this fight,” he recounted.
Leading up to Saturday night’s fight in his homeland, Nogueira had been telling everyone that he felt better than he had in years, that the surgery shaved years off of the wear and tear of an already storied career. And, to be honest, at 35 years of age, he’s a little bitter about those that were saying it was time for him to call it a day.
“At the (pre-fight) press conference, some guys, they ask (UFC president) Dana White, if I lose should I quit? You know, should he retire me? That guy sucks!” declared Nogueira, not mincing any words, even in his second language.
He’s had mixed results since moving into the Octagon after the demise of Pride Fighting Championships, where he vied with Fedor Emelianenko for supremacy. Nogueira has now won four out of six bouts under the UFC banner, not earth shattering, but nothing to be ashamed of either, especially when the losses were to current UFC champion Cain Velasquez and former champion Frank Mir. His hit list also includes wins over former UFC champions Randy Couture and Tim Sylvia.
But even with his resurgence, Nogueira isn’t looking all that far ahead. He’s got several teammates – Rafael Feijao, Antonio Silva, and Junior dos Santos – with marquee fights lined up, and he’d like nothing more than to help them be successful, returning the favor they did recently for him.
Nogueira is a company man, however. He’ll be ready to jump as high as necessary when the UFC brass comes calling.
“I want to help my friends right now. I’m not thinking about the next fight, but I’ll for sure be ready. If they have a fight in the U.S., I’ll be ready. When they have a fight in February in Japan, I’ll be ready to fight over there.”