Nogueira Waiting for Couture, Sylvia

By Gleidson Venga Nov 16, 2007
Former PRIDE heavyweight champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (Pictures) is one of the most respected fighters in mixed martial arts. The Brazilian has fought Fedor Emelianenko (Pictures), Josh Barnett (Pictures), Mirko "Cro Cop" and countless other top opponents while compiling a 30-4-1 record.

Sherdog.com caught up with Nogueira as he waits to hear who will stand across the cage from him with the UFC heavyweight title on the line.

Gleidson Venga: You just came back from the United States last week. Did you go there to sign for your title shot in the UFC?
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (Pictures): UFC joined together a lot of their top fighters for some kind of a seminar about things like how to behave with the media, dietary supplements, et cetera. Being that the UFC is a big company, the athletes must know what they are taking, better training conditions, know about the American IRS. They also spoke about the gambling business, for us to not get involved in this. It was very productive, like a company reunion. Dana White confirmed I'll fight February 2, but he didn't tell me about my opponent.

GV: There are rumors saying it will be Tim Sylvia (Pictures), or Randy Couture (Pictures) if he gets things right with the UFC. Is that true?
RN: I must face one of these two, but they're still dealing with the UFC. They didn't confirm Tim Sylvia (Pictures) yet because Couture is still the reigning champion. There's nothing officially signed, but I must face one of them.

GV: What do you think about their attributes?
RN: They have totally different attributes. Randy Couture (Pictures) is a good striker, but he is a wrestler, so I must be ready for the ground fight. But against Tim Sylvia (Pictures) I must sharpen my wrestling and work on my BJJ to close the distance to strike, aware of his jabs. They are both awesome athletes, but in opposite ways. Against both of them I must to work on my clinch because they have good clinches. In the clinch one will unleash his knees and the other will take you down. I'll be ready for any one of them; in February I'll be ready.

GV: Are you already training for this fight?
RN: For sure, I'm training a lot. I'm back from USA and now I won't stop training.

GV: How is the building of your new headquarters?
RN: The building is almost ready. It will be finished in the next days. There will be the training center, plus the dorm rooms for anybody who comes from other places to train with us. The training center we will open now and the dorm rooms later.

GV: Who will be the coaches?
RN: The BJJ will be under Amaury Bitetti, and I will help him. Striking will be under Luiz Dórea (boxing) and Luis Alves (Muay Thai), plus Kelson Pinto. The wrestling coach will be Rodrigo Artilheiro, who's an Olympic athlete and a big guy -- this is great for our team because we have heavy guys. I'm training a lot of wrestling with him because when I know about my opponent, I'll be ready. We have an official-sized ring, a UFC-sized Octagon.

GV: How do you analyze your debut against Heath Herring (Pictures) and what do you think you must improve for your next fight?
RN: Heath Herring (Pictures) surprised me with that kick. I was dominating the first round. I would go for the knockout, but I think I exposed myself too much, and then he kicked me. I think I must adapt my ground game to the fence. In UFC they use a lot of Vaseline, and they get a little slippery to submit. It makes things more difficult. But I'm working on it; I'm training a lot of BJJ with Bitetti, and next time I will be better. Octagon is too different from a ring; it's harder to get close to the opponent to take him down.

GV: You watched the Anderson Silva-Rich Franklin (Pictures) match. What do you think about his performance?
RN: It was exciting. Anderson improves himself every fight, and he is definitely the best in his weight class. I think he and Paulo Filho (Pictures) are the best. Anderson has my congratulations -- he's the best. I heard Dana White himself saying he's the best pound-for-pound fighter. He is a showman. Only he can do those things in the ring, spinning punch, front kicks, elbows, a lot of things surprising us every fight. I train with him, and everything he does in his fights he does even better in training. So that guy has a lot of things to show. His BJJ is sharp; he is very good. George, his coach, has my congratulations.

GV: The fans are anxious to see your brother, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (Pictures), back in the ring. What can they expect about his comeback?
RN: Rogerio now is more experienced in his striking. He is more mature, and his BJJ skills are even better. He signed to an organization in Canada, but they postponed the fight. Let us see if there will be something new for him this year. For sure he will fight well and please his fans, like usual.
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