It may have taken thirty-nine fights over a career spanning more than a decade but MMA legend Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira finally made his debut in Brazil last weekend and in the end served as testament to the saying that good things come to those who wait.
When the smoke cleared in Rio de Janeiro at UFC 134, Nogueira had notched a TKO win over streaking heavyweight contender Brendan Schaub – only the third strike-based stoppage he’d ever scored – and further cemented his status as one of the sport’s all-time greats.
The moment was not lost on “Minotauro” who spoke about the experience at the post-show press conference where he referred to the role his fellow Brazilians played in the performance, both those who he trains with and the thousands of strangers showering him with support in the HSBC Arena.
“For me it was a great dream. I’m coming back from three surgeries that I had this year. I did have to stop training for one year but I started training again four months’ (ago) so I was able to count on the support from all of my team – Anderson, my brother, Feijao, Pezao. I was very thrilled,” Nogueira explained while mentioning middleweight champ Anderson Silva, twin sibling Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Rafael Cavalcante, and Antonio Silva.
“I was only able to fight with such a short time to recover physically because of the Brazilian people so this victory was for the Brazilian people,” he concluded while flashing a continuous smile that likely hasn’t left his face since finishing Schaub.
In fact, Nogueira was so moved by the entire experience at the event he confessed a level of anxiety he hadn’t felt before despite having fought in front of larger crowds and against bigger-name opponents.
“This is my fortieth fight and I need to admit that when I was walking to the ring I was super-nervous, so nervous I couldn’t really look up to the crowd,” the 35-year revealed. “It was only after I finished the fight that I actually looked up to the crowd and saw how much noise was being made. For me it was a great pleasure.”
What’s next for Nogueira remains to be seen but one thing is clear – this past Saturday night is one the 33-6-1 competitor will never forget.
PHOTO CREDIT – UFC