When it comes the idea of an “end of an era,” it usually isn’t. The phrase gets thrown around way too lightly, especially in MMA.
But the next couple of weeks truly will be that for MMA, and specifically, for that loose label given to the early to mid-2000s: the Pride era.
Japan’s Pride (stylized PRIDE) dominated the MMA landscape while the UFC was still struggling to stay afloat. Among its stars (and yes, we missed plenty), the legendary Fedor Emelianenko, who is expected to fight for the final time on February 4, the Nogueira brothers, Rampage Jackson, Mirko Cro-Cop, Wanderlei Silva, Dan Henderson, and, retiring at UFC 283 on Saturday, Shogun Rua.
Shogun’s violence is legendary; the Brazilian light heavyweight has long been the type to either finish an opponent, or go out on his shield. When he arrived in the UFC, he was already out of his prime, having fought his best years in Japan. Yet he still managed to claim light heavyweight gold in the octagon, and were it not for a young upstart named Jon Jones, who defeated Shogun in his first title defense, he may just have held it for a while.
“I wanted to have my last fight in Brazil,” Shogun (27-13-1) told media outlets in Rio de Janeiro this week. “I started out in Brazil in Meca [Meca World Vale Tudo], so I was really happy to be able to come here and see the sport grow.”
The sport has grown in leaps and bounces since Shogun first put on the gloves in 2002. PRIDE rose, then fell, eventually scooped up by its old rival, the UFC. The UFC itself became a four billion dollar enterprise, thanks in large part due to fighters like Rua, willing to engage in wars for the entertainment of the masses.
Never one to pick and choose opponents, Shogun didn’t bat an eye when told the little-known Ihor Potieria would be his final foe. “It didn’t really matter. It was going to be my last fight regardless of who it was going to be,” the Brazilian legend stated on that front.
It’s not quite Dan Henderson, but then, what is?
That attitude, frankly, is why Shogun Rua is Shogun Rua. A fighter not known by his name, but the warrior spirit he embodies. Fans don’t call Mauricio Rua by his given name, after all. He’s Shogun.
He knows he has an emotional night ahead, mind you. “It’s gonna be tough. Every fight has a lot of emotions, a lot of adrenaline and nervousness, but being the last fight and everything, I’m going to have to be focused to get through them,” he admitted. That’s not likely to change how he fights, mind you.
As for his legacy? A man with two wins over Alistair Overeem, who won the 2005 middleweight grand prix, who won the UFC light heavyweight championship, simply wants to be remembered for his love of the sport.
“When I started I never really thought of my legacy, I was just doing what I loved to do. So I can show that I did what I loved to do, and that’s what I leave behind.”
Watch the full UFC 283 media day appearance by Shogun Rua above.