Thursday, Nogueira opened up on Internacional and fighting Brock Lesnar or Frank Mir. | Photo: Colin Foster
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil -- After a stunning first-round knockout over fast-rising prospect Brendan Schaub provided another crowning achievement in his incredible triumph over injury and age, Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira wants more.
At a press conference in Rio de Janeiro to discuss his partnership and sponsorship with soccer team Sport Club Internacional on Wednesday, the 35-year-old Brazilian fighting legend, who overcame recent double hip and knee surgeries to defeat Schaub at UFC 134, opened up about his new arrangement with the Porto Alegre-based club.
“I got to know ‘Inter’ better in 2006, when I was living in Japan,” Nogueira said. “I got myself acquainted with the club’s history, all the tradition. That is a team of warriors, just as I am. It’s a partnership that I love.”
On Aug. 25, Internacional triumphed over Argentinian club Independient 3-1 in the second leg of their two-game series to claim the Recopa 2011 -- a match between the previous year’s Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana winners, South America’s premier club competitions. A pre-match video of Nogueira was shown to the crowd at Beira-Rio, Internacional’s home stadium.
Club directors said they loved Nogueira’s heroic UFC 134 performance and passionate quotes for the soccer team and congratulated him on the victory.
Talking exclusively to Sherdog.com, Garra Marketing Director Alexandre Franklin, who was responsible for the deal, revealed that “Minotauro” and Internacional are close to signing a contract for licensed merchandise using fighter’s image.
“Can you imagine that? [He] will be the first MMA fighter ever with his image linked with a big soccer club for licensed products,” Franklin said. “Our plan is to keep him close to the club, to the fans. We don’t want to have ‘Minotauro’ linked only by wearing a T-shirt, fighting and then saying, ‘Good luck.’ We believe that is the right way to go.”
Nogueira is part of a rise in soccer-based patronage of MMA. His teammate, UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva, now has a strong relationship with the country’s second most popular club, Corinthians, while Cruzeiro has sponsored UFC welterweight Paulo Thiago. Nogueira, who has traditionally supported Rio club CR Vasco da Gama, was sponsored by Vasco during his Pride Fighting Championships heyday.
However, following his thrilling first-round knockout upset of Schaub, attention quickly turned to the next opponent for Nogueira. The former Pride and interim UFC heavyweight champion had no problems discussing the potential next bouts for him in the Octagon.
“They’ve been calling me to fight on Dec. 10 or in Japan in February,” he said. “My opponent will be Frank Mir or Brock Lesnar. These are two very high-ranked guys, and let’s see what happens. I’ll talk to my team to prepare a good strategy for them.”
UFC 140 is tentatively scheduled for Dec. 10 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. No firm date has been announced for a UFC show in Japan, though Zuffa, LLC, representatives are reportedly targeting Feb. 26 at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan, as a potential destination.