Mauricio “Shogun” Rua won’t be next in line to challenge for the UFC light heavyweight championship, but he harbors no ill will toward UFC President Dana White, who announced shortly after UFC on Fox 4 that Lyoto Machida will face the winner of Jon Jones’ Sept. 1 title defense against Dan Henderson.
“I respect the decision,” said Rua (Pictured, file photo) at the Saturday’s post-fight press conference. “All four guys were ready to fight for the belt. Lyoto is a tough fighter and he deserves to be the contender right now. Let’s wait for my opportunity.”
Rua finished onetime prospect Brandon Vera in the evening’s headliner at Staples Center in Los Angeles, while Machida knocked out Ryan Bader in the show’s co-main event. The Rua-Vera scrap was initially announced as a No. 1 contender’s bout, but after a poor fan reaction to the decision, White amended his stance and stated that the light heavyweight who performed most impressively would receive the next crack at the gold.
Rua was made a heavy favorite by the bookmakers prior to tonight’s contest, but Vera acquitted himself well before meeting his end in the fourth round. Despite the general perception that Vera was overmatched, Rua said that he expected nothing less than an excellent effort from his opponent.
“[Tonight was] no surprise. I know Brandon Vera, and tonight he proved he has a [big] heart,” said Rua. “I trained hard for this fight.”
Predictably, Vera also expected much of himself. After debuting with the UFC in 2005 as a heavyweight and delivering several standout performances, “The Truth” suffered back-to-back losses and made the move to light heavyweight. However, he appeared unable to recapture the spark that propelled him to four finishes in his first four Octagon appearances.
“I wanted to put on a performance so that no one would ever talk bad about the UFC. I wanted Shogun to know how much I respected him by how hard I was fighting him. I wanted to prove everyone wrong. I’m not done, not by a long shot,” Vera said at the post-fight presser. “I knew I was doing work against one of the legends.”
Rua used his wrestling to take Vera down early in the first frame, passing guard before taking Vera’s back. Round two saw Rua slow significantly, a fact that did not go unnoticed by Vera, who traded more evenly with the former light heavyweight champion in a trend that would carry over into the next round before Rua scored again with a takedown. Rua then appeared to catch his second wind in the fourth frame and went to work, cracking Vera with a hard combination against the cage that ended the fight.
Though Vera’s night ended in defeat, the American remained proud of his performance.
“I’m not happy I lost, but I’m happy I fought the way I did. When the time comes, I would love to do that again with Shogun” said Vera. “For a long time, I started taking my job here in the UFC for granted. I kind of fell off the track and stopped training like I was fighting the best guys in the world. I figured that just by being Brandon Vera, people would be nervous and back off, but it’s not like that. This is the place of champions. It’s been a hard-knock lesson, but I’ve learned it. I had a great time fighting tonight, and I’m not going to stop training. This isn’t the end. I’m going to get that damn title shot, one way or another.”
As for Rua, the 30-year-old says he is also satisfied by his effort, though he vows to train even harder for his next bout, regardless of whom he faces.
“I [got tired] a little bit, but next fight, I will train harder,” said Rua. “Every fight, I fight with [all] my heart. Inside, I want to [earn] a knockout every time.”