Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira is a true MMA legend. The highly regarded Brazilian jui-jitsu practitioner was the reining PRIDE heavyweight champion from Dec. 2001 to Mar. 2003, when he lost the title to Fedor Emelianenko.
Nogueira was considered by many to be unbeatable from 2000 to 2003 running off an impressive streak of 13 victories before his highly anticipated match up with Emelianenko.
Known primarily for his otherworldly jui-jitsu skills, a big heart, and tremendous chin coming into the UFC, Nogueira cemented all of these traits before the eyes of American fans with two unbelievable comebacks in consecutive fights against Heath Herring and Tim Sylvia.
Nogueira appeared dazed and took a high degree of punishment in both fights, particularly against Silvia, but was able to secure victories due in large part to his impressive recuperative abilities.
Nogueira has fought the world’s top strikers and taken their best shots in stride, always pressing forward, always looking for a mistake. And from the vicious ground and pound of Fedor Emelianenko, and stand up prowess of heavy handed Tim Sylvia, to the ferocious leg kicks of K-1 superstars Mirko Filipovic and Semmy Schilt, Nogueira had never once been knocked out until last night.
“It was the first knockout of my career, said the ever-gracious Nogueira at the post fight press conference. “I feel like I didn’t fight well tonight; I didn’t fight my distance. He had a great fight tonight. He was a great fighter. He had better distance than me, he had some good shots at the beginning of the fight that changed everything I was planning. He’s just great, he had a great night tonight and fought very good… he threw some strong hands.
Nogueira was a bit somber, but appeared in good spirits following the fight; stating that he’s committed to improving his game and insisting that he’ll come back stronger and faster.
As for an upcoming opponent? How about Randy Couture?
“Yep. For sure I would accept this fight against Randy Couture,” Nogueira said. “He’s a great fighter. He just lost his last match but he’s a true legend in this sport and I’d love to fight him. It would be a good promotion; we’re both very experienced fighters and it would be a nice match.”
Let’s hope the UFC is listening.