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‘Shogun’ Rua hopes to wrap up legendary career with ‘last two fights’ in 2022

Mauricio Rua has a plan for the last two fights of his legendary career.

First up, “Shogun” fights Ovince Saint Preux on Saturday at UFC 275 in Phoenix, a rematch of their November 2014 meeting that Saint Preux win in shocking fashion via 34-second knockout. Win or lose, Rua expects to just one more time before hanging up the gloves for good.

Rua, 40, appeared on The MMA Hour on Wednesday ahead of his fight to explain why the time is right for him to walk away from competition.

“I put in my mind that I want to do this one plus one more,” Rua said. “Two last fights. So this right now is my motivation. It’s what drives me. I’m focusing on finishing and doing these last two fights the best I can.”

“I think this is the right moment,” Rua added when asked why two fights specifically. “I thought about a lot and I think that if I had retired previously, like a while ago, I would possibly regret it and keep thinking about it and it wouldn’t be good for me. Now I think it’s the right time. I have come to terms, matured, and did the things I wanted. So it’s the right moment.”

A glance at Rua’s recently results wouldn’t immediately tell you that this is a fighter on the verge of retirement. He lost his most recent fight to Paul Craig at UFC 255, but prior to that he’d gone 5-1-1 (including a split draw with Craig in their first fight) competing sporadically from 2015-2020. At UFC 198, he won a narrow split decision over Corey Anderson, who today sits at No. 2 at light heavyweight in MMA Fighting’s Global Rankings.

Rua and Saint Preux were previously scheduled to rematch five years ago at a show in Saitama, Japan, but Rua was forced to withdraw due to a knee injury. Though he hasn’t exactly been chasing another crack at “OSP,” he’s grateful that he’s getting it.

“It was the UFC’s idea, but we liked it,” Rua said. “So we kind of accepted gladly and thank God it worked out.”

“I know it’s a tough fight but I know that I can overcome that result. That’s an extra personal motivation, for sure.”

If all goes well, Rua aims to have the final fight of his 20-year career before 2022 is over. Saturday marks Rua’s first fight since November 2020, but he said that he is in good health at the moment and hopes that he’ll be able to compete again not long after UFC 274.

“I hope so, but I know it’s something I don’t have complete control of,” Rua said. “So we’ll see, I hope to have no injuries so I’ll be able to fight again this year.”

Rua didn’t express a preference as to where his last fight could be, though he spoke fondly of Japan, the country in which he became a star with the PRIDE organization. Alongside the likes of Wanderlei Silva, Quinton Jackson, Fedor Emelianenko, Mirko Cro Cop, Takanori Gomi, and others, Rua established a brand of combat sports excellence that is still talked about to this day.

As to how he’s outlasted his peers, Rua believes it’s just been a matter of timing.

“The real difference is that back then I was very young,” Rua said. “I was, like 23, and those guys they were at their primes, they were 30, 28, or whatever, so they were a little older and so it’s kind of natural that I outlasted them in a sense because now I’m 40 and when I come to look at it, a lot of guys hit their peaks at 40. [Fabricio] Werdum, [Michael] Bisping, Demian [Maia], other guys, so it makes me feel good about it but it also makes sense for me that I would outlast those guys.”

“The biggest obstacle I had in my career obviously were my injuries, but I was able to overcome them one way or another to treat them and to find ways and overcome them,” he continued. “Then I think what carried me through was my dreams and goals. Now my goal is to make the best of these two last fights and this is what keeps driving me so I always had goals and dreams that I would focus on and carry out.”