Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira may be viewed as an elder statesman of mixed martial arts, but that doesn’t mean “Minotauro” has plans to call it quits anytime soon.
“Man, you [media] keep on saying that [I should walk away]. They’re trying to retire me,” Nogueira said at the UFC 153 post-fight press conference Saturday night. “I can still fight. I feel amazing. I’m still hungry. I still feel like I can go and fight and throw some good things. Physically, I feel good. I know my arm broke, but I had good physical therapy, and I’ve been working [an extra] hour every day.”
The former Pride Fighting Championships ace returned to action at UFC 153 following a 10-month layoff to defeat Dave Herman in the evening’s co-main event. Nogueira was shelved by ex-UFC champ Frank Mir this past December when he refused to tap to a kimura and instead allowed his right humerus to snap at UFC 140.
“I have 16 screws in my arm, and I didn’t know if I was coming back too soon,” said Nogueira. “I want to say thank you to the UFC. When I broke my arm, I had a lot of support from Mr. Dana White. I flew in his plane when I came back from [UFC 140 in] Canada, and [the UFC] sent me to the best doctors. They fixed my arm and got it ready 10 months later.”
The 36-year-old appeared no worse for the wear on Saturday night at the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, hanging with Herman through the scrambles in round one while consistently using his repaired right arm to fire off straights that continually connected with Herman’s visage.
It would be Nogueira’s left that would deliver the most significant shot of the fight, however, as the Brazilian clipped Herman with a lead hook in round two that sent the American crashing to the canvas. Though Herman managed to escape an armbar attempt and return to his feet, Nogueira immediately reestablished ground control after executing a trip, passing to mount before searching for the opportunity to finish the fight.
Herman, who previously claimed that jiu-jitsu did not work on him, once again found himself trapped in an armbar, but this time, there was no escape. Though he tried gamely to roll away from the pressure, the former EliteXC talent’s efforts only served to better Nogueira’s position. With nowhere to go, Herman tapped out at 4:31 of round two.
“There will always be a special taste to [this win], obviously, because [I won it with] jiu-jitsu, a Brazilian martial art,” said Nogueira. “I see many different guys out there saying it, but it’s a lie that jiu-jitsu doesn’t work. Now, all fighters who do not know jiu-jitsu are at a disadvantage. It was really [great] to get the submission, because I haven’t had a submission in MMA for some time. I was very happy to [earn the win] with the support of the Rio crowd.”
Moving forward, Nogueira says he wants to fight the best the UFC has to offer, provided his opposition does not come in the form of friend, training partner and reigning heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos.
“I want to fight Top 10 guys. I can’t ask for the belt, because my buddy, Junior dos Santos, [is the champion],” said Nogueira. “He’s kind of my brother, and I’m going to be helping him for the next two weeks for his fight against Cain [Velasquez]. But I want to fight against the best guys.”