Mauricio 'Shogun" Rua file photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
UFC light heavyweight champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua is on track for an early 2011 return -- possibly at the promotion’s annual Superbowl weekend event in February -- after undergoing anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) surgery in his left knee on June 10 in Los Angeles.
UFC President Dana White told the media earlier this month that the newly crowned titleholder wouldn’t be expected back at least until March. Eduardo Alonso, Rua’s manager, said all signs point to the 28-year-old fighter accomplishing that and possibly doing White one better.
“Off the top of my head, I think of the Superbowl card in February, but this is something that could change depending on his recovery schedule and the UFC’s business schedule,” said Alonso. “But the way things are going right now, I can tell you that he’ll be ready sooner than expected.”
The 2005 Pride Fighting Championships middleweight tournament champion’s injury and subsequent surgery were kept secret for weeks, said Alonso, to ease the fighter mentally into his recovery process.
Alonso said Rua injured his left knee during his first-round knockout victory over Lyoto Machida at UFC 113 last May in Montreal.
“It was precisely on the second takedown where he tried to take down Machida and Machida stuffed it and ended up on top,” said Alonso.
Rua had previously undergone surgery on his torn left ACL in September 2007, following a disastrous promotional debut against former 205-pound champion Forrest Griffin at UFC 76 in Anaheim, Calif. Rua also had a follow-up operation on the same knee in 2008.
“The first time he injured his knee was in training, and maybe from years of training, before the Forrest Griffin fight,” said Alonso. “He opted to fight with the injury and ended up having surgery right after. We don’t comment on it very often because we don’t like to take anything away from Forrest.”
Alonso said that the UFC helped facilitate the most recent surgery.
“We had options to do the surgery in many different places, but opted with the UFC’s advice to do it in Los Angeles with Dr. Kitvme,” said Alonso. “Honestly, I think it’s the best decision we’ve ever made.”
Following surgery, Rua traveled to Las Vegas and has spent the last four-and-a-half weeks in physical therapy with Alonso, Rua’s wife and his newborn daughter at his side.
Alonso said this recovery period has been the quickest of the three for an anxious Rua, who wanted to stop taking his pain medication a day after the surgery. Alonso praised the UFC for allotting its champion the time to heal without the pressure of committing to his next bout.
“Shogun is very happy, as he’s doing through a great moment in his life with (winning) the belt and the birth of his daughter,” said Alonso. “Mindset is very important for the recovery process, so we made sure he was comfortable. But he’s very anxious because he’s such an active guy. He has great genetics, so his recovery is going great. The challenge for us as a team has been to hold him back and make sure he takes his time.”
Alonso, Rua, and his family leave the United States for Brazil on Saturday, where the fighter will complete the rest of the physical therapy in one of the world’s biggest soccer clubs in Sao Paulo. Alonso said Rua will begin to integrate some training back into his rehabilitation and will resume his full-time regimen once his physicians give him the go-ahead.
White had said that Rua’s first title defense against Rashad Evans, who earned a unanimous decision over Quinton “Rampage” Jackson at UFC 114 last May, wouldn’t be scheduled until the former Chute Boxe fighter’s prognosis was clearer. However, a projected March return has ignited recent talk of Evans fighting another candidate for an interim title. Alonso said the chatter hasn’t fazed Rua.
“Honestly, we don’t mind talk of interim titles, because this is the UFC’s decision and not ours,” he said. “Shogun has the belt and it means a lot to him and he’s the legit UFC champion right now. If the UFC decides to set up an interim title for other fighters, it’s not really for us to evaluate this. Each manager is really trying to push his fighter’s best interests.”
With Rua’s fast-improving progress, a 205-pound interim title might not sound like a necessity after all.
“Whatever happens, Shogun will have to defend his belt when he’s back sooner or later and if it’s against an interim champion or just a contender, it doesn’t change much,” he said. “The way we see it, unless a champion retires, the interim champion is just another contender.”