Perhaps no one in mixed martial arts history built more equity in terms of reverence and respect than Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.
The former Pride Fighting Championships heavyweight titleholder was a toxic blend of competitive fire, inhuman toughness and technical skill that kept him relevant at the sport’s highest level for more than a decade. Nogueira made his debut under the World Extreme Fighting banner in June 1999, won 19 of his first 21 fights—he started his career 19-1-1—and established himself as one of the greatest heavyweights of all-time. In one of his many signature moments, “Minotauro” on Aug. 28, 2002 took on the monstrous Bob Sapp at Pride Shockwave before 91,107 fans at Tokyo National Stadium. Sapp, who stood 6-foot-5 and outweighed his counterpart by more than 120 pounds, administered a brutal beating for the better part of four minutes, only to find himself surrendering to an armbar from the resilient Nogueira. The Brazilian’s legend only grew from there.
Now four-plus years removed from Nogueira’s final appearance, here are five things you might not know about him:
1. He was a picture of consistency.
Nogueira did not suffer back-to-back defeats at any point in his career until he lost his last three fights before his retirement. Meanwhile, he pieced together five different winning streaks of various lengths: three fights, four fights, five fights, six fights and 13 fights.
2. The path of least resistance was rarely an option.
“Minotauro” beat six former Ultimate Fighting Championship titleholders during his remarkable career: Mark Coleman, Ricco Rodriguez, Fabricio Werdum, Josh Barnett, Tim Sylvia and Randy Couture. The eight men who defeated him—Barnett, Werdum, Dan Henderson, Fedor Emelianenko (twice), Frank Mir (twice), Cain Velasquez, Roy Nelson and Stefan Struve—have a combined 214 wins between them.
3. He found a home away from home.
Nogueira was one of only five fighters to win a divisional championship in Pride. The others were Emelianenko, Henderson, Wanderlei Silva and Takanori Gomi. Nogueira compiled a stellar 17-3 record inside the Japan-based organization.
4. He was a menace on the mat.
A fifth-degree Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt under Carlson Gracie disciple Ricardo De La Riva, Nogueira delivered 21 of his 34 career victories by submission and utilized a variety of techniques in doing so. He recorded 10 wins by armbar, three by triangle choke, two by anaconda choke, one by guillotine choke, one by triangle armbar, one by keylock, one by rear-naked choke, one by arm-triangle choke and one by crucifix.
5. He saw the sights.
Nogueira fought in six different countries as a professional mixed martial artist: the United States, Japan, Australia, Brazil, Canada and the United Arab Emirates. He went 26-4-1 in Japan, 6-1 in America, 2-2 in Brazil, 0-1 in Canada, 0-1 in Australia and 0-1 in the UAE.
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