While a chipped tooth may have altered heavyweight legend Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira’s smile it certainly hasn’t kept the Brazilian legend from flashing his familiar grin on every occasion possible given his excitement about finally returning to the ring later this month, let alone fighting in front of his countrymen in Rio de Janeiro at UFC 134.
Nogueira recently spoke to Tatame about how he’s approaching his upcoming bout with Brendan Schuab as well as what it’s been like to have Strikeforce Grand Prix semifinalist Antonio Silva around to help prepare him for the fight.
“The prep is great, I’m having the support of my friends here, thank God, like Pedro Rizzo, Anderson Silva, ‘Bigfoot,’ who came here and is helping me on this final phase of the training,” Nogueira explained of his camp before adding, “There’s also Junior (dos Santos), Rafael Feijao, who’s my training partner and helped me a lot. The expectations are high. There’s that pressure of fighting at home and representing the Brazilian people, and it’ll be almost my 40th bout… I’m super motivated!”
However, while “Minotauro” may refer to pressure, rather than fold underneath it he’s used it as a source of motivation.
“It’ll be my first fight here, so I’m excited about it, I’m really motivated. Four months ago I was using crutches to help me walk, and now being here training with high level athletes proves I overcame many obstacles.”
Nogueira only had positive things to say when talk turned to “Bigfoot” where he added he felt Silva would definitely emerge as Strikeforce’s Grand Prix Champion, saying, “He has always been a top guy because he’s a big guy, agile, thin… He’s not a heavy or really muscle guy, he’s just big, he has good takedowns, he has a good ground game, he has good boxing skills, he has a perfect wrestling…he’s practically a international level wrestler. He trains his takedowns a lot, he’s explosive, he has great conditioning, he has a good head too, and when the fight comes he becomes even bigger. He’s not a lion at the gym, (but) he’s a lion on the fights.”
When asked about his hopes of keeping Silva around, the 35-year old playfully responded, “We’re treating him right. He’s on a flat in front of the beach, he has all the structure and he’s doing fine.”
Nogueira is 32-6-1 in his career with too many notable wins to count including victories over Tim Sylvia, Randy Couture, Dan Henderson, and Josh Barnett. More than half of his in-ring success has been the result of his BJJ, considered to be among the top in his division if not the best.
PHOTO CREDIT – UFC