There are four fighters who could potentially get a light heavyweight title shot after UFC on Fox 4 is over, but everyone seems to be aiming directly at one person as the most likely candidate.
The criteria set forth by UFC president Dana White is whoever is most impressive during the Saturday night fight card will get the next crack at the 205-pound champion.
Most assume it’s Mauricio “Shogun” Rua who has the easiest path to the title shot, and so the questions are already coming at him rapid fire as if he’s already earned it.
But when you hear the tone in his voice and the direction in which he answers, he’s clearly not happy that everyone seems to be looking past his opponent, Brandon Vera.
Sure, Vera is 1-2-1 in his last four fights and hasn’t been a top ten light heavyweight at any point in his career. It’s true Vera wasn’t the first choice for the main event for the UFC on Fox show, and there were more than a few protesters to the idea that he even got the fight, much less those people entertaining the idea that he could win.
Rua on the other side is a legend of MMA. A former UFC champion, a former Pride Grand Prix champion, and consistently one of the most dangerous fighters in the division, Rua has been placed as a heavy favorite going into his bout with Vera. The Brazilian veteran warns those that would look past Vera, however, that as soon as you start believing your own hype, your whole world comes crashing down around you.
“This guy deserves the chance in the UFC because he has a great background in the UFC, and we must respect this. He fought in two different divisions, fought some tough guys, so I think the guy deserves respect. We can’t think that way that the guy doesn’t deserve the chance,” Rua told MMAWeekly.com on Wednesday.
“It can be a little dangerous to think I’m the favorite or this guy is the underdog, it’s like a trap. We must be focused in my game and my strategy and that’s the concern I have.”
It’s with a scowl that Shogun then answers the questions about the title shot. It’s hard to ignore because it is such a grand prize hanging over the heads of the fighters at this event, but Rua doesn’t want to even talk about that because if he loses to Brandon Vera none of that even matters.
He says it’s not really a distraction however because the only thing on his mind is the fight.
“It doesn’t matter. It’s not a distraction for me because I’m still focused like I was a month or two months ago. For me it’s important to win the fight, after that then I can think about the future. Right now, I’m just focused on Brandon Vera on Saturday,” said Rua.
When the fight is over and his hand is raised, then Rua will gladly talk about Jon Jones, Dan Henderson, and the light heavyweight title fight, but to get there he first has to get past Brandon Vera.
“I’m not thinking about the belt. My main goal this weekend is to beat Vera, then in the future I’ll start thinking about the belt. I’m still aggressive, I don’t change my plan, and I fight looking for the knockout. I want to give my fans a show,” said Shogun.
“With a huge victory it will be my ticket to the belt again.”