You’ll never get too much emotion out of UFC Fight Night headliner Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. There will be the occasional ear to ear smile or the burst of energy after a big win, but as far as getting the Brazilian to break form and get into a heated verbal exchange with an opponent or even show anger at a remark or two is something you won’t see too often, if at all.
This, of course, promised to make his Saturday bout with Chael Sonnen even more interesting because history has shown that no one can get an opponent out of their shell quite like the self-proclaimed “Gangster from West Linn.” Yet shockingly, the loquacious three-time title challenger has been quiet, and dare we say, respectful toward Rua in the lead up to the bout.
“Yes, it surprised me, because I was expecting a great amount of trash talk from him,” said Rua through translator Lucas Pires. “Maybe he knows I don’t care about it and he would just be wasting his words in the wind.”
That’s probably an accurate assessment, even though Sonnen hasn't wasted any opportunities taking aim at Rua’s friend and former Chute Boxe teammate Wanderlei Silva. And while Rua admitted to being annoyed at Sonnen’s attacks on “The Axe Murderer,” he’s not going to let it affect what he does on fight night. > Read: Getting back on track
“My focus is only on the fight and what to do inside the Octagon,” said Rua, who finds himself at an interesting point in his storied career after losses in two of his last three fights. Of course one of those losses was to Dan Henderson in one of the greatest fights in MMA history in 2011, and the other was to current number one light heavyweight contender Alexander Gustafsson last December. But in the Gustafsson bout and in his August 2012 win over Brandon Vera, Rua looked listless and far from his prime form. So the way he saw it, it was time to shake things up a bit.
“I changed (teams) because I want the best for me,” he said. “I assembled a team of winners with Glaube Feitosa, a legend of K-1, Roberto Gordo, an excellent coach of Jiu-Jitsu and MMA, and Renato ‘Babalu’ (Sobral), a great teacher of wrestling and MMA. I am very happy with my new team and the results will be great. They bring a lot of experience and new techniques to further improve my game, in addition to correcting deficiencies that I had in my fighting style.”
And sometimes, a change of scenery and a few new faces in the gym are all it takes for an elite fighter to get back on track, and despite the wars he’s engaged in over the last 11 years, he still feels that he has plenty of fight left in him. > Watch: Rua Training with Freddie Roach
“Despite being a long time in professional MMA, I'm still young,” said Rua. “I am 31 years old and I have a lot to give the sport.”
He was on the verge of giving the sport another classic when he was matched up with Rogerio Nogueira at UFC 161 in June. The bout would be a rematch of a 2005 fight won by Rua and considered by most observers to be one of the best ever held in the PRIDE ring. But when Nogueira was injured, the bout was scrapped.
“I was really sad, because I know that is a fight that everyone wants,” said Rua. “I want it, Rogerio wants it too, the fans want it, and the UFC wants it. But I know that this fight is going to happen.”
Hopefully it does, but first there’s the little issue of Mr. Sonnen, who volunteered to fight Rua in June, only to see the match pushed to the premiere of UFC Fight Night on FOX Sports 1. June or August, it didn’t matter - Shogun is ready.
“He's a tough guy, a specialist in wrestling and dangerous in that area,” he said of Sonnen. “But I've studied his game and I’m ready to overcome it.”
If he does, the Brazilian star is back in the win column and back on the road to the top. Not that he’s concerned about the future beyond Saturday night at the moment. > Also Read: Best Of "Shogun"
“I'm not thinking about it,” he said when asked what a win does for him in the division. “I just think the victory. I want to win again and I’ve never been defeated twice in a row. I'm not worried about ranking. I just want to fight and win.”
Well, we did have to ask.
“I always want challenges,” said Rua. “At the moment, my greatest challenge is Chael Sonnen. I do think of being champion of the UFC again, to regain what once was mine. But it is time to think about Chael Sonnen and victory.”
The Fire's Still There for Shogun Rua
"I do think of being champion of the UFC again, to regain what once was mine. But it is time to think about Chael Sonnen and victory." - Mauricio "Shogun" Rua
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Sunday, December 4
Las Vegas, Nevada