by Ken Pishna – MMAWeekly.com
Former Pride Heavyweight Champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira signed a contract with the Ultimate Fighting Championship on Saturday. Sources close to the dealings indicated that although Nogueira could be seen with UFC president Dana White at Thursday night’s UFC Fight Night in Las Vegas, Nev., the deal had not yet been inked at that point. In actuality, Nogueira put pen to paper just a few short hours prior to last night’s UFC event in Houston, Texas.

Although Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta now own the Pride Fighting Championships, Nogueira was not simply “assigned” to the UFC. In fact, he was not yet under a contract with any organization and White had expressed interest in luring Nogueira to the UFC in the past.

This latest move bolsters what was once considered a weak UFC heavyweight division. Aside from Nogueira, the current heavyweight roster includes newly crowned champion Randy Couture, former Pride contender Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic, former UFC champions Tim Sylvia and Andre Arlovski, Heath Herring, and a host of young, rising talent.

With a professional record of 29-4-1 in mixed martial arts, Nogueira is highly regarded as one of the most prolific ground fighters in the world and one of the most dynamic fighters in the division. He is currently ranked as the #3 heavyweight in the world on MMAWeekly.com.