Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira (32-5-1) is one of many UFC fighters sidelined with injuries during the past few months. Nogueira was planning to fight undefeated rising star Cain Velazquez (7-0) at UFC 108 on January 2nd until a staph infection sidelined him pushing the targeted fight date out to February at UFC 110 in Australia. Nogueira tried to fight through a similar infection last year against Mir and lost via TKO in the second round. A healthy “Minotauro” returned in August and looked stellar in defeating former heavyweight and light heavyweight champion Randy Couture in August at UFC 102.
Nogueira has been stricken with a staph infection for the fourth time in the past year. He explained in an interview with Sherdog.com, “That drains all your energy. (Anyone) who had that before knows what I’m talking about.” There was clearly a noticeable difference in the fight with Mir while sick last December and the fight with Couture while healthy in August.
“When they called me and asked me to fight (in January) I was getting in shape. I started to jog and started to do my workout. I did a couple of sparrings. And then I had the staph in my elbow so I had to cancel the fight for sure. I didn’t want to be over there in the cage again at like 50%. If you fight a high level guy like those guys in the heavyweight division in the UFC, the top guys in the world, so I want to be there 100%.”
The UFC helped Nogueira get treatment in the United States and now Nogueira claims to be back on track for UFC 110. “I hope in February in Australia, I can fight over there.”
While it’s not certain who his opponent will be in February, Nogueira expressed interest in Velazquez. “If they put me the same guy I was supposed to fight Cain Velazquez it would be a nice matchup.” Velazquez has beaten all five of his opponents in the UFC. He most recently impressively stopped Ben Rothwell via TKO in the second round.
Current heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar has been recovering from a serious illness of his own and his return is up in the air. As a result, the UFC may make the Nogueira-Velazquez match for an interim heavyweight title. Nogueira feels he deserves to be in the interim title fight. “I feel I’m in a good position right now. I had a very, very good last fight. Velazquez is a good opponent. If I beat him. I want to be there. I think I deserve to have a title shot. And I hope to fight the champ when he’s coming back.”