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Junior dos Santos: ‘Minotauro’ Nogueira 'still has what it takes to compete'

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira became the UFC interim heavyweight champion in 2008 with a submission victory over Tim Sylvia. That was the 37th fight of "Minotauro’s" professional career. Ten months later, the Brazilian was finished for the first time in MMA against Frank Mir, and hasn’t won back-to-back fights since.

After the first knockout loss of his career, "Minotauro" entered the Octagon seven times and suffered four stoppage losses, including two submissions. UFC president Dana White doesn’t want to watch him fight again after a brutal first-round loss to Roy Nelson in Abu Dhabi, but his protégé Junior dos Santos leaves the final decision in Nogueira’s hands.

"Minotauro always overcomes the adversities," dos Santos told, "and I will support him in anything he decides to do."

"Dana White is very emotional some times," the former champion continued. "He said that about Wanderlei (Silva) in the past and he keeps doing a great show for the fans. The Brazilian fans always want you to win, so it’s tough."

Nogueira has yet to return to Brazil from Abu Dhabi after his loss, and hasn’t talked to his team about his next step. His manager, Jorge Guimaraes, hinted at a third bout with Frank Mir. Nogueira is 0-2 against Mir, but dos Santos is confident that his teammate has what it takes to continue fighting.

"When retirement comes through your head, it means you should retire," he said. "I don’t know if that’s an option for him yet. I believe he still has what it takes to compete, but anything can happen. He’s 37, but this is the heavyweight division and one punch can end a fight. He got caught.

"I still think that Minotauro can do great fights in the UFC, but that’s up to him. If he wants to stop fighting and help the new generation of the sport to get there, I will support whatever is his decision."

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