Once upon a time, all Mauricio "Shogun" Rua had to do was win. All he needed was a simple victory, by even the narrowest of margins, and a title shot was his. But that was before the backlash. The fans weren't on board with the decision, even though it probably had more to do with the possibility that his opponent, Brandon Vera, could also claim a title shot with a win. But UFC president Dana White heard the complaints, and amended his decision.
Instead of the UFC on FOX 4 main event winner getting an automatic pass to fight for gold, the possibility was extended to the co-main eventers. And when both Rua and Lyoto Machida won by knockout, it was Machida who was selected for the shot while Rua is thrown back into the division's general population.
If the decision upset Rua, he did a good job of hiding it.
"It’s OK, I respect the decision," he said during the event's post-fight press conference. "I’ll keep training, and if Lyoto has the chance, good luck, and let’s move on."
Rua has gone 2-1 since losing the belt to Jon Jones in March 2011. Since then, he knocked out Forrest Griffin, then lost a close decision to Dan Henderson in a bout that many considered 2011's fight of the year, and now, he knocked out a resurgent Vera.
Rua is still considered to be in the division's top five by most, but he'll have to win at least one more time before he can hope to find himself fighting for gold again. In the meantime, Jones will fight Dan Henderson on Sept. 1, and then the winner of that fight will face Machida.
Asked what might be in his immediate future, Rua offered no specifics, and said he would wait for direction from his bosses.
"I’m happy fighting, I just want to keep fighting," he said. "Let’s see what UFC decides for me for my future. Let’s see."