Couture, Nogueira Old Pros in UFC 102 Prep

By Loretta Hunt Aug 18, 2009
Neither Randy Couture nor Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira will be banking on a repeat of the Brazilian’s previous performance as they head into their heavyweight headliner at UFC 102 on Aug. 29 in Portland, Ore.

The former Pride heavyweight champion hit a stumbling block with Frank Mir in their UFC 92 bout in December 2008. Mir dropped a sluggish Nogueira three times before stopping him in the second round. The loss cost Nogueira not only the interim heavyweight championship, but the opportunity to unite the two titles with UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar at UFC 100 in July.

“Bad fights happen, you know? As a fighter you got to be 100 percent,” said Nogueira during a teleconference call for UFC 102 Tuesday. “In my last fight, I had a knee injury days before the fight. (It’s) no excuse, but I couldn’t be in shape because my knee was out. It was a very bad time for me to fight. I couldn’t move at all and that day Frank caught me with a good left hand three times. He made the fight.”

Nogueira, a 10-year veteran of the trade at only 33 years of age, said he has a lot to make up for on Aug. 29.

“I feel like I have to perform way better than the last match,” said Nogueira. “I have to work more because the fight is serious and my opponent is very good.”

Likewise, Couture is drawing upon his infinite 12-year wisdom to disregard the Brazilian’s sleepy UFC 92 performance and all the talk that surrounded it.

“I think I have to prepare for the best Minotauro we’ve ever seen,” said Couture.

Amazingly, the bout will be Couture’s second three-round bout in the Octagon in a dozen years. All 17 remaining appearances have been fought before the institution of five-minute rounds or for five-round championship bouts.

Photo by Sherdog.com

Nogueira expects a better showing
than he displayed against Mir.
Like Nogueria, the 46-year-old Couture is coming off a second-round loss to Lesnar at UFC 91 last November, but the six-time UFC champion isn’t drawing his inspiration, or desperation for that matter, from the performance.

“I don’t think either one of are in that situation where we have two losses and you’re going to be dropped,” said Couture. “We’re both experienced, we have a big following, and have made names and reputations for ourselves. I don’t think we find ourselves under that kind of scrutiny under the gun. I don’t feel any pressure in that sense.”

Nogueira, who has split his training between the Alliance MMA gym in Chula Vista and Black House in Los Angeles, is finding his motivation in other places as well.

“I have three fight(s) in the UFC,” he said. “I can tell I couldn’t show my best performance yet, you know? I think I’m getting there. I’m getting good shape back, same shape I had in Pride. I still have a lot to show.”

In other notes:

• Couture didn’t import guest-star training partners to mimic his opponent, as he’s done with past opponents like burly wrestler Brock Lesnar or 6-foot-8 giant Tim Sylvia. “Nogueira’s probably only about 10 pounds bigger than I am, so size isn’t really the issue,” said Couture. “It’s more of a technical issue, and I think I already had the staff for jiu-jitsu…I didn’t bring anybody in extra.”

• Nogueira said he will have some familiar company in the UFC shortly in his twin brother Antonio Rogerio. “(The UFC) already talked to him, so for sure he’s coming to the UFC,” said Nogueira. (Sherdog.com checked in with Antonio Rogerio on Tuesday, who said he is in negotiations with the UFC, and is still scheduled to face Alex Stiebling at Bitetti Combat 4 on Sept. 12 in Brazil.)

• Couture said teammate Forrest Griffin is already back in the Xtreme Couture training gym following his UFC 101 loss to Anderson Silva on Aug. 8 in Philadelphia.

• A reporter was able to find a tactful way to ask Couture about his current divorce proceedings, relevant to his mental focus and preparation.

“Unfortunately, I’m going through divorce again, but it’s a lot different this time than it was with a 12-year relationship (in the second divorce) that Trish and I had… I don’t [have] any circumstances -- no family, no friends, no business partners involved. Back then, I felt everybody was hating on me all at the same time and it was hard to deal with. This issue’s between Kim and I, a two-and-a-half year marriage that’s pretty easy to separate and I think things are progressing. The attorneys are doing their jobs and that allows me to just focus on training and get ready for this fight.

• Nogueria, who’s been a part of some of MMA’s greatest heavyweight battles, as well as some of its cringe-worthy beatings, shot down one reporter’s talk of retirement.

“I figure I’m 33 years old and I’ve had a lot of good wins in my career,” said Nogueira. “I have a couple more years.”
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