Saturday night’s UFC Fight Island 3 will be one of the last times MMA fans see two PRIDE legends go head-to-head. The legendary Japanese promotion, eventually swallowed up by the UFC, continues to have a mythic legacy among the sport’s faithful, and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (“Lil Nog”) and Shogun Rua remain some of the final flag bearers of the defunct company.
Nogueira (23-9), who began his career in 2001 in Japan, will retire following Saturday’s fight against Shogun. A man who has defeated him twice in the past. “Lil Nog” (or “Minotouro” if you prefer) had a host of big wins back in PRIDE — he twice defeated Alistair Overeem, submitted Dan Henderson, and even picked up a win over Gracie-hunter Sakuraba. But he never earned the win over Shogun: not in Japan, not in the UFC a decade later, in the pair’s rematch.
Why ask for Shogun for his retirement fight? Speaking to Cageside Press during the UFC Fight Island 3 virtual media day, Nogueira explained that it’s because “we made the best fight of my career in 2005.”
“He’s very aggressive, he has big knockout power. I think I have that too. It’s gonna be a good fight,” he added. But then, there’s another reason this fight means a lot to him. In their 2015 rematch at UFC 190, Shogun won a unanimous decision. 29-28 scores from all three judges.
“I think in 2015 [the rematch] I did not lose,” Nogueira suggested. “When I won the first round, I think it was more like two points. I think the fight was supposed to be a draw.”
And so for the final fight of his career — one that has seen multiple generations of MMA fighters come and go — he’ll look to finally pick up a win over his fellow Brazilian and PRIDE alum.
Will it really be the last one? MMA retirements are often fickle. Alexander Gustafsson retired a year ago. Saturday night, he fights immediately before Nogueira, whose fight against Shogun is the co-main event.
“I think it’s gonna be the last one. It’s a good time to retire,” said Nogueira. “I’m 44 years old, there’s a new generation.”
To that new generation, Nogueira gave just a little advice: “I’d tell them, be hard, like the old style, like before. Keep training hard. Believe in your dream. Something like that.”
As for the standout memories from his career, there was no one fight, no one moment. Rather, said Nogueira, “I think when I fought in Japan for Pride, like 2005, 2004, 2003, it was a good time. The best shape of my life. When I debuted in the UFC in 2009, 2010, it was a good time. I made good fights. In Japan, and the UFC too.”
Thanks for the memories, Minotouro.
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira meets Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in the co-main event of UFC Fight Island 3 (UFC on ESPN 14) this Saturday, July 25. The card airs live on ESPN (TSN in Canada).