Antonio Rogerio Nogueira’s MMA career will come to an end on July 25, just a month away from the 19th anniversary of his in-ring debut. “Minotouro” confirmed to MMA Fighting that the trilogy bout with Mauricio Rua, scheduled for the fourth “Fight Island” show in Abu Dhabi, will be the last time he enters the octagon to compete.
And making that decision wasn’t really that difficult.
“I think the time has arrived,” Nogueira said. “It’s a lot of work, several projects, the head doesn’t stop. I’ll do my things, but I’m sure I’ll adapt to not fighting anymore. It’s going to be hard [laughs], maybe I’ll have to do more yoga and meditation to get me focused on doing other things instead of thinking about fights. And I’ll be a coach, I have my team, I’ll be able to train them, so it’s okay. Maybe finding new champions will satisfy this desire or winning.”
Minotouro admits that having other projects, such as the many franchises of Team Nogueira all over Brazil, affected his performance in the last few years, “but I won’t put the blame on it since I chose to have both.” In the end, taking care of those projects allowed Nogueira to have a more comfortable post-fight career.
A month away from his final walk to a cage after almost two decades as a professional fighter, Minotouro knows he will have to prepare himself for a new routine in his life.
“You go to the gym and watch athletes training, it will get to a point where you will train but won’t have the competition,” Nogueira said. “You’re always moved my goals, competitions, but it’s time to think about the post-career, take care of other projects, think about other things. You can’t focus 100 percent in everything. We have the Team Nogueira project, my seminars and lectures. We were splitting the energy and focus, and now I’ll be able to close (my career) with a great fight.
“It’s gonna be hard, but I’m okay with it and I’m doing it the best way possible, fighting a great champion, someone I respect, someone that gave me a rivalry that forced me to train even harder. I train more when I’m fighting ‘Shogun.’ I’m excited, I know it’s going to be a great fight.”
A twin brother of MMA icon Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Minotouro has produced some legendary moments of his own. The four best of “Little Nog’s” athletic career, according to the fighter himself, were fighting Kazushi Sakuraba two years into his career in front of almost 40,000 fans at Tokyo Dome, clinching a medal at the 2007 Pan-American Games as a boxer, facing legends at the 2005 PRIDE middleweight grand prix, and his UFC debut in 2009.
Minotouro has beaten the likes of Alistair Overeem (twice), Dan Henderson, Tito Ortiz, Rashad Evans and Sakuraba in 32 professional bouts, but admits he gets a weird feeling leaving the sport without holding a major title.
“Getting so close, being one of the five best in the UFC, and always being one of the three best in PRIDE,” he said, “but I think I’ve done great things. Great fights. It was a great career. It’s been a great career.”
For some people, Minotouro will always be reminded as just the twin brother of “Minotauro,” which his resume proves to be an understatement. Sure, his heavy brother has achieved more in the sport by winning both UFC and PRIDE heavyweight belts, but seems unfair to discredit Little Nog’s importance just because someone that looks exactly like him was “better.”
“I was lucky for having Minotauro as a brother,” Nogueira said. “When you have someone of that caliber by your side, you only get better. If I didn’t have Minotauro as my brother I wouldn’t have gotten better. Being compared by others and compare yourself in training, that’s inevitable. When I watched him I thought, ‘I have to get better to give him a better training, to get better for myself.’ That made me train more, made me evolve as an athlete.
“Since I couldn’t grapple like him I decided to get better on the feet training boxing, developing something else. That helped me. I’m grateful for having Minotauro as a brother. Instead of being pissed off with comparisons, no, I want the comparison. Minotauro has his shine, his career, and he’s one of the all-time legends in this sport. He’s what helped me achieve everything I’ve achieve in fighting, my evolution.”
The final chapter of Nogueira’s career goes down at Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, and he feels that avenging two controversial decision losses to Shogun is the perfect way to close this book.
“Shogun and I always put on great fights,” Nogueira said. “It was the ‘Fight of the Night’ in 2015, one of the best fights in PRIDE history in 2005. Him and I, it’s always great fights.”
“I’ve been training different things for this fight,” he added. “I’ll take risks. I’ll change the strategy. I’ll be more aggressive, go for the knockout. I’ll try to surprise him more. I can’t talk about my strategy here, but I’ll try to finish this fight, for sure. A knockout or a submission.”