Mauricio Rua is finally ready to enter the Octagon one more time.
"Shogun" will be fighting in front of his countrymen on March 11, as he takes on Gian Villante at the UFC Fight Night 107 card in Fortaleza, Brazil, and explains to MMA Fighting why it took so long for him to return to competition after his decision victory over Corey Anderson in May.
"The focus was to fight in Brasilia in September, but I had a little tendinitis that didn’t let me train harder,” Rua said. "It was no big deal, but it was a bit painful. They asked me if I could fight in Sao Paulo (on Nov. 19), but I couldn't either. I’m 100 percent now. I’m training well, and ready to go."
Rua enters the bout coming off wins over Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Corey Anderson, his first back-to-back victories since 2009, and still needs to take a closer look at his opponent to study his fighting style.
One think is for sure, though: the former UFC and PRIDE champion wants to use his muay thai against the New York native.
"I know him a little,” "Shogun" said. "I’ll start studying him now, but I know he likes to strike and to go for takedowns. He’s well-rounded. He has good hands, good takedowns. I’ll train hard to be prepared in all areas and don’t get surprised, of course. I hope I can use my muay thai in this fight.
"I think he will strike to close the distance and take me down. For sure, he will try to take me down and stay on top, which is an advantage. I think he will fight strategically, but I will be prepared to win the fight.”
“Shogun" will fly to Fortaleza to promote the event on Jan. 17, but still hasn't decided if he will fly to California to train with Rafael Cordeiro for UFC Fight Night 107.
"I’ll talk to my team and master (Cordeiro) and see how my training will be,” he said. "I’ll start training hard next week.”
Facing a former UFC champion for the first time in his 22-fight career, Villante enters the bout in Brazil fresh off a stoppage victory over Saparbek Safarov in Albany, and a win will move the winner one step closer to title contention.
The Brazilian, who held the UFC title for 10 months between 2010 and 2011, still dreams about regaining the light heavyweight gold, but won’t focus on it just yet.
"I’m No. 7 in the rankings, but I’ll tell you the truth, I don’t focus too much on rankings and the belt,” Rua said. "My focus is on the opponent in front of me. I can’t think about somebody else while I have someone tough in front of me. My focus is on him. I’m 100 percent focused on this fight, and everything else is consequence.
"My biggest dream is the belt,” he continued, “but I’ve been through this experience before, and I know that if I think about the belt before fighting my next opponent, that might not get me motivated. I’m more experienced now, and I know I have to think about my next opponent. This is what motivates me."