Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira won and won big last night at UFC: Rio.
Returning after well over a year from a devastating loss and several major surgeries against a strong young fighter in Brendan Schaub, many believed that Big Nog was in for a beating. Of course, the PRIDE veteran had different plans.
He took some licks, walking through a barrage of hard punches to fire back with his own. Eventually, he overwhelmed Schaub, knocking him out in the first round of their heavyweight contest. Though it doesn’t exactly herald him as the next contender to the heavyweight throne, the win did a lot to prove that Nogueira can still hang — which is good considering that UFC president Dana White was looking at retiring the 35-year-old even after his last loss to current champ Cain Velasquez.
“I talked to Nogueira after his last fight and talked to him about retiring,” White said at last night’s post-fight presser. “He was pretty pissed off about that. That’s why when I came out and was talking about Tito (Ortiz), and Tito won that fight, Nogueira was one of the guys that really jumped on Tito’s side and said, ‘Listen, he doesn’t make these [expletive] decisions. We do.’ But it’s not true. I do make those decisions. I’m not going to let this thing be boxing. When a guy is done, we know when he’s done. I don’t want to make one dollar of that kind of money. I don’t.”
So, for now at least, Big Nog’s place on the UFC’s roster is secure. Though he said at the presser that he never actually considered retirement for a second and wishes more people saw that he didn’t need to hang up his gloves.
“People, I made a tremendous effort to overcome -– to come back to fighting, to come back to fight in Brazil -– so I would not look at this fight as my test. I had three surgeries; I’m only human,” said Nogueira. “I was on crutches. I have callouses on my hands because I spent five months on crutches. Three-and-a-half months ago, I got rid of the crutches and started training. Many people didn’t believe in me. I think the Brazilian people should believe in me more.”