Simply put, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira does not know the meaning of “easy”. The former UFC and PRIDE FC Heavyweight Champion has been in some of the biggest high-profile wars in the history of the sport, and his uncanny ability to remain conscious despite taking massive amounts of damage remains legendary. But the man with the once-infallible chin has now been (T)KO’d in two out of his last three bouts. “Big Nog” is still out rehabbing an injury, but according to high-profile manager Ed Soares, Nogueira will be back and ready to prove that he can still be a force in the UFC. Here are all the details.
Soares recently talked to ESPN and said the following: “He’s a great guy, so he’s always in good spirits… He is rehabbing [his knee] right now in Brazil. He’s not training, just rehabbing… I am assuming [his return] will be sometime in late spring, early summer… I think [Nogueira-Mir II] is a great fight. Does he want to even the score? Absolutely! …Big Nog is a warrior. He’s never chosen an opponent. Whoever you put in front of him, he will fight.”
I still hold out hope for Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, and I don’t think I’m hoping in vain. Nogueira is still one of the best Brazilian Jui Jitsu specialists to ever compete in MMA. I think you can say with a credible amount of certainty that he probably has passed his prime, but it does him a great disservice to think that he’s entirely done as an MMA fighter. If you’re a fighter the caliber of “Big Nog”, you can still score some big wins and get some huge fights lined up for yourself even if you’re technically past your prime.
Nogueira won’t have it easy, but it’s not like the man will become a glorified gatekeeper. It’s up to Nogueira himself to figure out where he stands in the increasingly-competitive UFC Heavyweight division. And while I won’t get my hopes sky-high, I also won’t be predicting doom. The days of Nogueira dominating a fight are most likely over, but on any given day he can still be a threat to any opponent.
Personally, I’d love to see a Frank Mir vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira rematch. I think “Big Nog” does possess the abilities to even the score, and I also think that Frank Mir needs a marketable match that he could conceivably end in dramatic fashion. After the lukewarm reception (to say the very least) his performance against Mirko Filipovic garnered, a rematch with “Big Nog” would go a long way towards restoring some of Mir’s lost prestige. And if Nogueira wins, it will set him up for more big matches in the future and even a possible high-profile comeback.
So while the future may be uncertain for “Big Nog”, I wouldn’t say that dark days are ahead. Nogueira will be facing some tough tests for sure, of that I have no doubt. But the man has made a career out of rising to the occasion and defying the odds. When Nogueira returns he’ll have ample opportunity to do just that. And as a PRIDE fan and a fan of the man himself, I’ll certainly be pulling for him.
But what about you, fans and friends? What do you think of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira’s chances in the UFC once he returns from rehabbing this injury? And what future opponents do you think he should face?