Mauricio “Shogun” Rua corrected one of the more egregious judging errors in UFC history Saturday night by definitively beating Lyoto Machida in a rematch of their UFC 104 battle. In beating Machida, “Shogun” captured the UFC Light-Heavyweight Championship and achieved a lifelong goal. Rua Spoke with MMAJunkie.com about what it means to him to have won UFC gold.
“I’m very happy because in 2005 I was able to achieve a dream, which was to win the PRIDE grand prix,” Rua said. “Now five years later, I achieved another dream, which was to become the UFC world champion. I’m a guy that has been able to achieve so many dreams in my career, and I still have so many dreams to achieve.”
“Shogun” entered the UFC after the dissolution of PRIDE and made his debut in September 2007 against Forrest Griffin at UFC 76. Rua lost that bout and looked to be a shell of himself during that performance. A lackluster win over an aging Mark Coleman at UFC 93 had many doubting that “Shogun” was the same destroyer who won the PRIDE Middleweight Grand Prix. However, during the preparation for both of those bouts “Shogun” was harboring knee injuries that required more than one surgery, keeping him out of the cage and preventing him from reaching his full potential.
“Injuries are the worst thing that can happen to a fighter’s career,” Rua said. “The worst times in my life were when I had the two knee surgeries about three years ago because that was very tough. People were criticizing a lot, but I took that as motivation because I work so hard that when I go through that type of criticism, I try to think that somebody has to pay the bill. Somebody has to pay for what I’m going through, so I try to do that in my fights and pay back when I’m fighting.”
“Shogun” took on former UFC Light-Heavyweight Champion Chuck Liddell and at UFC 97 and knocked him out cold in the first round to earn a shot at Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida’s belt. The two Brazilians battled it out for five rounds and after the last bell rang many believed that Rua’s masterful display of tactics had won him the fight. The judges saw things differently and awarded a unanimous decision victory to Machida; prompting the organization of an immediate rematch between the two by the UFC. They also unknowingly motivated “Shogun” to fight more aggressively in the rematch in order to keep the fight out of the judges’ hands.
On Saturday night in Montreal “Shogun” showed that he is the rightful Light-Heavyweight Champion by knocking Lyoto Machida unconscious in the first round of their fight. He credits the knowledge he gained from their first meeting as being the key to defeating Machida this time around.
“For my first fight, I trained and studied Lyoto Machida’s game and tried to fight according to his style – in a safer way,” Rua said. “For this fight, I knew him better, so I tried to exploit him and to take more risks and take more chances and go to try and finish the fight.”
“My first fight against Machida, I tried to exploit the kicks a lot, and I noticed that every time he would try to attack on the timing of my kicks, he was attacking but without his guard in proper place – with his face exposed,” Rua said. “That’s why I worked a lot this time not only on the kicks, but also on the overhand right punch to surprise him when he was moving in from my kicks.”
Rua believes that his current success is a product of growing and evolving along with the sport of MMA.
“I think now I’m a different fighter than I was back then,” Rua said. “I think now I train much more based on my opponent because I think this is the evolution of MMA nowadays.”
“Shogun” will likely face the winner of the UFC 114 fight between Rashad Evans and previous opponent Quinton “Rampage” Jackson but he says he is open to facing anyone, including Anderson Silva. The only exception that he made was for his old friend and training partner Wanderlei Silva, saying, “The only guy I wouldn’t fight is Wanderlei Silva because he’s a great friend of mine. Other than that, whoever the show wants me to fight, I’ll fight. I’m a professional fighter, so I don’t care.”
Rua should take some time to bask in the glow of his hard-earned glory. The UFC’s Light-Heavyweight title changes hands more frequently than any other title and the division is full of elite fighters with their eyes on the belt. In the interest of not giving in to premature hype or hyperbole, look for “Shogun” to continue to have exciting fights in the UFC and do not be surprised if he repels more than a few challengers to his throne.