Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (left) file photo: Sherdog.com
He remains one of the most decorated heavyweights in mixed martial arts history, with wins over 2006 Pride Fighting Championships open weight grand prix winner Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic, former UFC heavyweight champion Josh Barnett, two-time Olympian Dan Henderson and UFC hall of famer Randy Couture.
The legacy of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira -- the only man to hold heavyweight titles inside Pride and the UFC -- is safe as he enters the twilight of his career.
In this exclusive interview with Sherdog.com, “Minotauro” discusses his recent knee surgery, Chael Sonnen’s derogatory comments towards him and his twin brother and the upcoming matchup between his longtime training partner, UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva, and Vitor Belfort.
Sherdog.com: You had surgery on your knee recently. How are you recovering?
Nogueira: My recovery is excellent. I’ve been doing physical therapy for a month. I am already walking without crutches, but it is a surgery that takes a while to heal, so I will need about five months to get back. I’m also doing a treatment on my hip. There were two injuries that I had a few years ago. I wanted to take care of them a while ago, but now I’ve decided to stop everything and treat them all at once. I’m taking care of myself. I think in six months I will be ready to fight.
Sherdog.com: How is the gym that you opened in San Diego?
Nogueira: We had our first class yesterday. We made Sergio Moraes our jiu-jitsu coach because we wanted a top instructor teaching us. We will also have MMA, muay Thai and wrestling training. The gym is quite large and has an Octagon that’s a little bigger than the UFC’s. The gym has a professional ring, and there are four areas of mats. The gym is huge. I want all the best athletes on the team. The staff will always be giving seminars here. It is our base here in the U.S.
Sherdog.com: A topic of interest this week was the Internet video in which Wanderlei Silva gave an earful to Chael Sonnen for the comments that he made about Brazil and you and your brother. What did you think of this video?
Nogueira: I loved it. I had to call to Wanderlei to congratulate him. I always get along well with Wanderlei. Whenever we train in Las Vegas, we go to his gym. Yesterday, I had to congratulate the guy, because he has the right attitude. Sonnen is a kid who does not know what he’s talking about, who thinks it’s cute to do this type of marketing. Sonnen is a guy who never practiced a martial art in his life. He doesn’t know what respect or leadership is. He never respected any teacher, so he said those things. He’s a guy who has no respect for anything. Wanderlei gave him an earful at the right time, and I was pleased. After the fight with Anderson, Sonnen has apologized for the comments he made toward us. I think marketing yourself is fine, but what he said indicated a real lack of respect toward us.
Sherdog.com: Based on what he said, he ended up picking a fight with every Brazilian fan, didn’t he?
Nogueira: Sonnen was totally wrong. It was a great lack of respect toward us. The guy talked too much, and even though he was doping, he still lost to Anderson. Even with Anderson hurt and Sonnen doped, Anderson still defeated him. God is just.
Sherdog.com: This week, the fight between Anderson and Vitor Belfort was announced. What do you expect for this fight?
Nogueira: I think it’s a good matchup, and it will be exciting on the feet. They’re two great guys. Anderson fights very well in the Octagon and handles his emotions during his fights better than Vitor. Belfort is super explosive and very dangerous, but I think Anderson is better. He is more consistent, more dangerous, and he has more experience in the Octagon. Anderson hasn’t had a career as long as Vitor’s, but he’s shown more ring savvy since he’s been with the UFC. Anderson is the more complete fighter.