Ready for his 45th MMA fight, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira wants to prove he still has what it takes to be a world champion.
"Minotauro," the only fighter to win both PRIDE and UFC heavyweight championships, headlines the UFC Fight Night card in Abu Dhabi on Friday against Roy Nelson, and he wants to make a statement against "Big Country".
"I don’t think I need to prove to anyone how good my jiu-jitsu is. I do believe I can submit him," Nogueira told MMAFighting.com. "I’ve trained a lot with Bruno Frazatto and Everaldo Penco. The best scenario is get out with the win no matter how. He was never finished in the UFC, but I know I’m capable of doing it."
Nelson was only finished once during his 28-fight career, in a second-round TKO against former UFC champion Andrei Arlovski at EliteXC in 2008. With 24 of his 34 professional victories coming with stoppages, "Minotauro" plans to do it.
"He really does have a heavy overhand and is really dangerous in the first minutes of the fight, but I believe that I have better boxing," he said. "I’m ready to stop his game and, if the fight goes to the ground, I believe a lot in my jiu-jitsu. I think that I can be in advantage in every aspect of the fight.
"The secret is in the legs. I need to be light and fast. My speed and movement will be the key to the victory. It’s a five-round fight, so we need to be well trained. He was never knocked out or submitted in the UFC. I’m ready to go five rounds, but I would love to finish the fight before that."
Nogueira fights for the first time in Abu Dhabi, so he called an old friend to help him in the finals weeks of camp. Unbeaten under the Abu Dhabi Combat Club (ADCC) banner, Ricardo Arona is familiar with the place, and traveled to Abu Dhabi with "Minotauro" 15 days before the fight.
"It was great to come here to Abu Dhabi," Nogueira said. "We opened a gym in Dubai, so I brought a good team with me from Brazil. I’m here with my coaches, and I brought Ricardo Arona to help me with training over the last couple weeks.
"We studied Roy Nelson’s fights a lot," he continued. "We know what he can do. We know what we have to do. I’m excited to fight in Abu Dhabi and to compete against Roy Nelson because he’s a dangerous opponent and demands a lot of respect and hard training to beat. He’s a knockout artist and really well-rounded, so you need to be well trained to fight someone like him."
Nogueira, who turns 38 years old in June, admits that retirement is getting closer.
"I will continue fighting as I feel I’m physically fit for it," he said. "I know that I’m in the end of my career, but I love to fight and still have a lot to do in the UFC.
"It will depend on my performances. I love to train and I’m training well. If I can do in the fight what I’m doing in training, my dreams are tangible. I still have a lot of fights to do. I want to be among the best heavyweights in the UFC."
"Minotauro" wants to be among that best, and he feels he can make one last run to the heavyweight title.
"I can’t come here and say I want to fight for the title because I’m not ranked to ask for it. But if I get closer to the title again, why not?" he said. "Every UFC fighter wants to get there and I made it in the past. I want to fight for it again, but it’s not something I can think about now. I have to get past Roy Nelson first and move up in the rankings, beat other guys. It’s not intangible, but it’s not real to talk about it right now."