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UFC Hall of Fame notebook: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira changing course from fighter to mentor

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

LAS VEGAS — Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira didn't talk much about his childhood accident much during his fighting career. Now, though, it's something Nogueira has discussed with fighters a lot.

When he was 11 years old, Nogueira was hit by a truck and somehow he survived. He was in a coma for a time, had damage to his lungs and was in the hospital for nearly a full year.

The Brazilian MMA legend told a bit about the story Sunday during his induction speech for the UFC Hall of Fame here at Las Vegas Convention Center. He has been using his background story quite a bit in his new role as an executive for UFC Brazil. Nogueira is now a mentor to young fighters in his home country.

"I hope I set an example to motivate people, to motivate the new fighters, motivate the guy who doesn't got to the gym who doesn't train martial arts because he has a knee injury or some little things," Nogueira told the media afterward. "I've been from a big accident and I hope I can motivate them to watch the UFC and to train. I love to inspire people to train."

Nogueira, 40, only retired from fighting after a unanimous decision loss to Stefan Struve last August at UFC 190. He is a former interim PRIDE and UFC champion with a handful of some of the most exciting fights in mixed martial arts history on his record. Nogueira (34-10-1, 1 NC), who was inducted by his brother Rogerio and Anderson Silva, owns wins over Dan Henderson, Mark Coleman, Fabricio Werdum, Randy Couture, Josh Barnett and Mirko Cro Cop. He's unequivocally one of the top five greatest heavyweight fighters of all time.

Now, though, Nogueira is all about talking, not fighting. That's what his job entails. "Minotauro" said he is in constant contact with fighters.

"I like a lot of new guys that are coming up, the new fighters," Nogueira. "We are working with them in Brazil. We're doing research. Not just the UFC fighters, but the guys that have potential to go to the UFC. We study all the greats in Brazil and we see a lot of guys that are gonna come to the UFC in the future.

"I like to talk with Jacare as well. He's not a young fighter, but I like to talk to him a lot. He's a big friend of mine. I love to talk to Demian Maia. Thomas Almeida, another guy I have talked to a lot in Sao Paulo. There's a guy from Brasilia, Renato Moicano, I'm a big fan of these kids. We're trading messages every day. I think he's got a big potential."

"Big Nog" doesn't just have an office job, either. He's out at events constantly, and not just UFC events. He's scouting talent and imparting his wisdom.

That nearly tragic story from his past, the one he didn't love talking about during his fighting career — he never wanted to detract from his or anyone else's accomplishments — has now become a calling card.

"A lot of people use the excuse," Nogueira said. "They're hurt. They cannot do it because they're tired. So me as a guy who came over the accident, I know I can be a lot of motivation other people."

Frye changes mind about women's MMA

One of the main characteristics of Don Frye's old video blog predicting UFC fights was a steady stream of insults toward female competitors in MMA. You won't be hearing that any more from the newly inducted UFC Hall of Famer.

Frye praised women's MMA on Sunday after the UFC Hall of Fame ceremony. The mixed martial arts legend has done a complete 180 on the topic.

"I used to be against them. I thought women should be delivering my drinks to me, cooking my dinner," Frye said. "Hell, these women are tough. They're better athletes, fight better than some of the guys. Last night, the best fight there was the women."

Frye, 50, was talking about the stellar women's strawweight title fight between Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Claudia Gadelha in the main event of The Ultimate Fighter 23 Finale. Jedrzejczyk won a bloody unanimous decision to retain her belt.

Frye, a former two-time UFC tournament title winner, said fighters like Holly Holm, Paige VanZant and Sara McMann have helped him change his mind about women's MMA.

"It just happened over time," the Arizona native said. "The guys got softer and the women got harder. They put on better fights. Being an athlete my whole life, I appreciate athleticism. I appreciate somebody who sticks in there and goes after it. And the women are. It's impressive the way they're going after it. They're fighting like we did back in the ‘90s."

Notes: The 1998 fight between Mark Coleman and Pete Williams was inducted into the fight wing of the UFC Hall of Fame on Sunday. Williams beat Coleman via head kick during the UFC 17 contests. It's still one of the most discussed — and one of the first ever — head kick finishes in MMA history. ... Bob Meyrowitz, the former owner of the UFC, was also also inducted, though he could not physically attend the ceremony. Meyrowitz was one of the co-creators of the UFC in 1993 while running his Semaphore Entertainment Group (SEG) company. SEG later purchased the UFC and sold it in 2011 to Zuffa LLC, headed by Lorenzo Fertitta, Frank Fertitta and Dana White.

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