Mauricio “Shogun” Rua was hoping for a shot at the UFC light heavyweight belt with a win at UFC Hamburg, especially after Daniel Cormier named him as the ideal next contender, but his dreams fell apart at the hands of Anthony Smith.
Rua’s three-fight winning streak was snapped by Smith in the opening round of their main event bout on July 22, handing him his first loss since Nov. 2014. In his first interview since the defeat, Rua opened up about what went wrong in the Octagon.
“Everything went right up until the end of the fight,” Rua told MMA Fighting. “I had a good camp, I had no injuries, I was 100 percent, and unfortunately he landed a straight punch and I got dizzy and he followed up with a flurry of punches and the referee stopped the fight. I think that my mistake was being a little exposed, and that’s when he landed.”
The Brazilian legend, a former UFC titleholder and Pride FC Grand Prix champion, says that the opponent change of going from Volkan Oezdemir to Smith on days’ notice didn’t really make a difference in the outcome of the fight. However, “Shogun” did point out that his 16-month layoff from his last fight — a third-round TKO over Gian Villante — did affect his performance.
“It’s not an excuse,” Rua said, “But I was a little bit out of rhythm, with no distance, and that hurt me a little bit. But Anthony had all the merits.”
After taking some time off with his family in Maringa, Brazil, Rua wants to return to the cage as soon as possible for what could be the final three fights of his MMA career.
“I’m really upset, and I plan on ending this contract with the UFC, I have three more fights, and when it’s over, I’ll take a break and talk to my family and my team and see what I’ll do,” Rua said. “I want to fight as soon as possible. I was talking to Eduardo (Alonso) yesterday about that. I have a goal. I want to fight again this year, maybe December, and then we’ll see what happens.”
Asked what a “break” means, Rua said, “I plan on ending this contract and then I’ll see what I’ll do with my career.”
“Shogun” will have 39 professional fights by the end of his UFC contract, and then he will feel ready to make a decision about retirement. He could still change his mind, but right now he doesn’t plan on signing a new deal with the company or going elsewhere.
“I want to end this contract and then I think I’ll probably stop,” Rua said. “I don’t know. I’ll analyze it with my family and my team, everybody.”
Like many times before in his career, Rua’s wife and mother tried to convince him to retire after the loss to Smith.
“Yes. All the time,” Rua said, laughing. “They ask for that, but they understand me. Fighting is my work, my career and my passion, so there’s a lot involved. I will stop when I see it really is the right time to stop.”
Going down a different path now, focusing on big fights with fellow MMA legends instead of facing top-15 light heavyweights in a title run, is not his current plan.
“I think (it’s possible), but not at this moment,” Rua said. “My last fights were against ranked opponents and Anthony Smith is coming with everything, so I always fight the best. I think a time will come that I’ll do more classic fights, but for now, I don’t know, I don’t think so.”
A title shot is out of the picture right now, and many wonder if “Shogun” will be able to get to a position to challenge for the 205-pound championship ever again.
“I don’t think never again, but not for now,” Rua said. “A loss always puts you further from the belt, I really took a step back now and I know I won’t have this chance, I don’t deserve it. My focus is not the belt anymore, so I know I don’t deserve this chance. There are other people ahead of me that deserve this chance.”
After doing his entire UFC Hamburg camp in Maringa, Brazil, Rua doesn’t rule out moving his training to another gym in Brazil or overseas, but guarantees he’s “doing things the way that gets me more focused and motivated.”
“I’ll do everything it takes to get to my best,” Rua said. “I’m the one who wants to win more than anyone. I haven’t thought about it yet, but I’ll evaluate everything with a cool head and think about the next camp.”