October 7, 2012
Minotauro well-armed for UFC 153
By NEIL SPRINGER, QMI Agency
TORONTO - Antonio Rodrigo (Minotauro) Nogueira is still disappointed he didn’t get to fight in Canada this summer.
The former PRIDE heavyweight champion and interim UFC titleholder was scheduled to meet Cheick Kongo at UFC 149 in Calgary on July 21, but was forced off the card due to his surgically repaired arm not being fully healed.
Nogueira said he attempted to train as best he could, but realized he wouldn’t be healthy enough to fight Kongo.
“I was very disappointed because I couldn’t take the fight,” Nogueira said on a recent UFC conference call. “I was feeling ready to go when I accepted the fight. I had like two months for training ... (A sparring partner) threw a left kick in the ribs and I blocked it with my broken arm. I felt I was recovering, but after one month’s training and getting all those kicks — my sparring partners are all heavyweights and those guys kick very strong.
“(I wanted to avoid) an injury that would affect my career in the future. So that’s why I came out with my training partners, trainers, doctor and physiotherapist and we decided to just cancel the date.
“I feel sorry I couldn’t take that fight. I have a lot of respect for Cheick and the Canadian fans, but I wasn’t able to fight.”
Of course, the last time Nogueira fought in Canada, he was the victim of one of the most gruesome submissions in MMA history at UFC 140 in Toronto late last year.
The MMA legend appeared to be moments away from securing a knockout victory over fellow Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt Frank Mir when he instead opted to attempt a submission. Mir gained the upper hand and rolled into a kimura. Nogueira refused to tap out, essentially giving Mir permission to snap his arm like a twig.
Nogueira admitted he learned a painful lesson that night.
“It was a mistake; I learned from that fight,” Nogueira said. “I had the opportunity. It was spur of the moment and I decided to go for the submission. I am a striker, (but) I like the submission game. I like the ground game a lot. I like submitting guys, but if I see an opportunity for a KO, I won’t let it go.”
With his arm fully healed, Nogueira is set to meet Dave (Pee Wee) Herman in the co-main event of UFC 152 in Rio de Janeiro on Oct. 13. The show will be headlined by a light-heavyweight scrap between middleweight champion Anderson (The Spider) Silva and Stephan (The American Psycho) Bonnar.
Despite accepting the bout on only one month’s notice, Nogueira said his limb has fully healed.
“I’m feeling good; I’m strong in my arm,” Nogueira said. “My arm was broken in my last fight. I feel totally recovered and ready to go. I was hungry to fight. I was asking the UFC to (book me). Now I have a chance to represent and fight in Brazil.
“I’m recovered. I have a great team and very good training sessions, training with Rafael ‘Feijao’ (Cavalcante), Anderson Silva and (Antonio) Rogerio Nogueira. In training, I’m always being tested. I believe that if I’m training well, I will fight well.”
Much like Nogueira, Herman is in need of a win. His past two outings saw him suffer knockout losses to Stefan Struve and Roy Nelson. Ironically, though Herman is less than one week away from facing the submission specialist, he has often claimed jiu jitsu “doesn’t work.”
Nogueira responded that his 20 submission victories say otherwise.
“Everyone can say what they want to,” Nogueira began. “My BJJ works very well. I have 33 wins in my career and 20 of them are by Brazilian jiu jitsu. I know it works. I believe it works.
“Some of my last fights, I’ve been trying to strike more. But for this fight especially, I’ve trained a lot of Brazilian jiu jitsu. If I have the chance to finish him on the ground, I will go for it. I will try for a submission or knockout.”
Though Herman is critical of an MMA cornerstone, he said he has nothing but respect for Nogueira.
“I’m really excited about it,” Herman said. “He’s fought a lot of big names — pretty much everyone ... I look forward to see how I match up with him.”
BUDDIES WITH THE CHAMP
Though Antonio Rodrigo (Minotauro) Nogueira isn’t ruling out another run at the UFC heavyweight championship, he’s not interested in a title shot as long as the belt remains around Junior (Cigano) dos Santos’ waist.
The 36-year-old legend isn’t getting any younger, but said he would never fight his teammate — even if it meant the opportunity to further cement his legacy.
“If I get a chance, but Junior dos Santos is my buddy and my friend,” Nogueira said on a recent conference call. “We train together. So right now, I don’t (want a title shot). If I get a chance to fight another guy and he (dos Santos) does not have the title, for sure I will.
“The guy is like my brother.”