Ricardo Arona still wants to return to fighting. | Photo: Marcelo Alonso
In 2005, Ricardo Arona became the first man to defeat Wanderlei Silva in Pride Fighting Championships’ middleweight division. During his Pride stint, the powerful “Brazilian Tiger” also headlined one of the greatest rivalries in MMA’s young history, the clash between Rio de Janeiro’s Brazilian Top Team and Curitiba’s Chute Boxe Academy.
Now 33 years old, Arona lives behind his time of glory in the extinct Japanese promotion, but keeps alive his expectations to return to MMA after a two-year absence. Speaking recently with Sherdog.com, Arona revealed that he considered his feud with Silva crucial to Pride’s success.
“We grew up together in Pride,” said Arona. “He arrived there before me and was already a champion when I debuted. We had a feud in the beginning, but out differences created Pride’s history. It all started with us. I’ve grown up with that, as he did. We faced each other and I have nothing against him. We’ve met outside the ring and had a good, frank chat, and maybe we’ll fight again sometime. Until that happens, I cheer for him. He is a great warrior.”
After defeating Silva in the semifinals of Pride’s 2005 middleweight grand prix, Arona faced Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. At the time, Rua was the hottest prospect in MMA; he knocked out Arona in less than three minutes. Arona, who was in the front row for August’s UFC 134 in Rio, revealed that he also cheered for Rua in his rematch with Forrest Griffin and believes Shogun deserves another shot at UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones.
“He was very passive in that fight against Jones,” analyzed Arona. “I believe Shogun deserves another opportunity against him. It was inexplicable what happened. He was too passive, accepting that result the way a champion should never do, and he’ll have better luck, for sure, in a second fight.”
Before a possible Rua rematch, Jones has another Brazilian in his path: former champion Lyoto Machida, a fighter who many fans believe has the right game to solve the young star’s riddle. Arona believes that not only Machida, but other top fighters have a chance, but they need to do it now.
“Machida and Shogun’s styles are pretty different,” Arona opined. “I don’t know what should be the best style to fight against Jones, but I’m sure the time to beat him is now, when he hasn’t experienced everything inside the Octagon. When he gets through other situations, other problems, and gets more knowledge of what he’s doing, it will be tough to defeat him. He has holes and they need to be well-studied.”
So, maybe the perfect opponent to dethrone Jones is Ricardo Arona in his greatest shape ever?
“Jon Jones doesn’t scare me,” Arona affirmed. “I think he’s slower than me, even being fast, and observing his fights, I believe I have enough speed to get inside and out of his range. He does things slowly that you’d expect from him, but the problem is what you don’t. His spinning fists and kicks, just like Anderson Silva, are his greatest danger. He isn’t quicker or stronger than me.”
Despite a two-year absence from competition and only one bout in the past four and a half years, Arona believes his return to MMA could be closer than ever.
“I’m building a facility with a ring and a cage, along with a functional training and physiotherapy room,” said Arona. “I’ll invite the best coaches to spend some time there, to enjoy this facility, something every great athlete must have. I wish I could end this year by fighting again, but the time is passing quickly and I don’t know yet. But my desire is to fight again in December.”
Colin Foster contributed to this report