clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

With career plagued by injuries, ’Shogun’ Rua explains mindset change ahead of UFC Adelaide

UFC 198 Open Workout Photos
Mauricio Rua faces Tyson Pedro in the co-main event of UFC Adelaide.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Like in most of his recent fights in the UFC, Mauricio Rua faces doubt and criticism ahead of his light heavyweight clash with Tyson Pedro at Saturday night’s UFC Adelaide.

Over the past five years, whether he was coming off wins or losses, the former UFC and PRIDE champion was questioned if he really should continue competing in the sport. Age is not quite the issue, but the Brazilian has dealt with so many injuries throughout his UFC career that he hasn’t been able to compete that often.

Unlike his last fight, when he trained in his hometown of Maringa ahead of a first-round loss to short-notice replacement Anthony Smith, Rua moved his camp to Sao Paulo to prepare for Pedro. Having to prove himself in the Octagon and show fans he still can hang with heavy hitters is something he doesn’t think about anymore, though.

”That bothered me more in the past, but not anymore,” Rua told MMA Fighting. “A real fan will be a fan despite the result. Unfortunately, some people are fans of the result. If you win, I’m a fan. If you lose, you’re f***ing useless. That doesn’t affect me anymore. I fight because I want it. Some people have no idea what we go through, how it’s like to be in a fight, and demand from you as if they know everything about it. It’s unfair, you know? I won three of my last four fights and people tell me to retire. Wait a minute, I’ll retire whenever I want, not when they want me to. That doesn’t bother me anymore. I know that’s the price to pay now that MMA is a popular sport.

”When I read a comment or something like that in the past, I wanted to prove that person wrong,” he continued. “Not that I would reply to his comment, but would try to prove him wrong. I don’t care anymore. My focus is to train well and fight well. Wins and losses are just the consequence. I always want to win, of course, I’m an athlete and this is my life, but you can’t control the outcome of a fight. After all these years and the experience I got, that doesn’t affect me anymore.”

At age 37, Rua will be entering the eight-sided cage for the second time this year, something that hasn’t happened since 2014, when he suffered losses to Dan Henderson and Ovince Saint Preux on the same calendar year. Multiple injuries kept him sidelined for months in each one of the past few years, but he guarantees that’s not a problem anymore.

Rua’s clash with Pedro will be his fifth bout since 2015, a low number compared to his PRIDE days. Does he wish he was still able to fight so often in 2018?

”Actually, I don’t miss it,” Rua said, laughing. “It was better financially because you fight more often, but you get injured easier. I fought four times in 2004 and five times in 2005, I was younger, I had no history of injuries, so it was easier. I prefer to preserve (my body) more this time.”

“Shogun” doesn’t think that the injuries he has dealt with is him paying the price for competing so many times inside the ring in Japan, but wonders if he wasn’t so aggressive as a fighter he wouldn’t have suffered so many injuries and would be able to rack up a better record in the UFC today.

“Yeah, maybe,” Rua said. “Eduardo (Alonso, manager and head coach) once told me that he thinks that athletes that are more explosive tend to get injured more, and I’m an explosive athlete, so I think my fighting style tends to lead to more injuries. What really got in my way in my career were the injuries. It’s hard to stay on the sidelines for a long time, but it’s inevitable. It’s hard for a MMA fighter to never suffer an injury. I think this is the toughest sport for your body.”

Pedro, Rua’s opponent at UFC Adelaide, is 10 years younger than his Brazilian foe, but also has something to prove after losing two of his last three fights in the Octagon. Rua already had 28 professional fights under his belt when Pedro made his MMA debut in 2013, but “Shogun” believes that a battle between experience and youth is won by the one who trained harder.

To the oddsmakers, Rua is the underdog Saturday.

”It doesn’t bother me,” Rua said of being the underdog in Adelaide. “He’s a young fighter. He lost two of his last three, but he lost to two tough, ranked fighters, (Ilir) Latifi and Saint Preux. He deserves all the respect, and I also understand him being the favorite.”

The UFC Adelaide bout with Pedro has some similarities to Rua’s first trip to Australia. In 2013, the Brazilian had his back against the wall after a dominant decision loss to Alexander Gustafsson and a first-round submission defeat to Chael Sonnen. He was taking on a local rising talent in James Te Huna at the time, and silenced the doubters with a 63-second KO win.

Rua says “it’s a different fight, a different opponent, so I can’t rely on that,” but promises an action-packed fight for the fans.

”He’s a good striker who also likes to go to the ground to work on his jiu-jitsu, and so do I,” Rua said. “I think we basically have the same fighting style, so it will definitely be an interesting fight.”

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the MMA Fighting Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your fighting news from MMA Fighting