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Rogerio Nogueira: 'I’m not 100 percent physically yet, but I’m getting there'

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Antonio Rogerio Nogueira will finally return to the UFC.

Anthony Johnson, who recently defeated Phil Davis at UFC 172, will face off against "Minotouro" at UFC on FOX 12 in San Jose, Calif. on July 26, and the Brazilian sees the bout as an opportunity to get back to the top.

"Anthony Johnson won a big fight against Phil Davis and I’m sure we’re going to do a great fight for the fans," Nogueira told "He’s in a great phase of his career, coming off a great win, and I just got back to training this month. I will have a great camp for this fight."

"Minotouro" was ranked at the top 5 in the light heavyweight following wins over former champions Rashad Evans and Tito Ortiz, but was removed of the UFC rankings due to inactivity.

"I will be back. No problem, I will be back," he said. "I was out for so long, right? Rashad fought twice since our fight and I couldn’t because of the injuries. But I will be back."

The win over Davis put Johnson in the top 5 of the division, and Nogueira knows that a win over him would be huge for his title aspirations.

"There are a lot of great fighters in the division now," he said. "I can’t say that I’m getting a shot at the title with a win over Anthony Johnson because there are a lot of great fighters now, but it depends on how I win the fight. A knockout or a submission would get me closer to the title, at least at the top 3."

Johnson went 6-0 since his UFC release in 2012, so Nogueira doesn’t expect an easy fight in San Jose. Following an upset win over Evans at UFC 156, the Brazilian plans to repeat what he called "the perfect training camp" with the addition of Olympic wrestler Khetag Pliev.

"I will repeat the same camp I did for Rashad," he said. "I will have a high-level camp, and I want to bring Khetag again. He was an important piece of my camp for Rashad."

Johnson finished four of his last six opponents by way of knockout, but "Minotouro" is counting on that as he prepares for the bout.

"(Johnson) had some ups and downs, missed weight a few times, but he always did amazing fights in the UFC," he said. "He was one of the best at 170 and returned well to the UFC at 205. I’m expecting a tough fight.

"He’s well-rounded, with some good kicks and great stand-up game, good takedowns. He’s really explosive and hits hard, so it’s going to be a great fight. I think he’s going to try everything. I won’t go in there thinking he will only stand against me because he has a good weapon in wrestling and I don’t think he’s going to waste that."

The biggest issue going into the fight is Nogueira’s health status since he was forced to cancel four UFC fights since 2011. The Brazilian, who agreed to face Alexander Gustafsson (twice), Rich Franklin and Mauricio Rua, is confident he will be in perfect shape for UFC on FOX 12.

"Rumble" and "Minotouro" fought at the same night on March 26, 2011. The Brazilian went 2-0 since, while Johnson scored eight wins in nine bouts.

"I’m not 100 percent physically yet, but I’m getting there," he said. "I had two injuries. I had to undergo a knee surgery and had another back injury that forced me out of training for more than a year. But I will be at my best in two and a half months."

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