Sidelined since December of last year, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira is now set to return to the Octagon against Rashad Evans on Feb. 2 at UFC 156 in Las Vegas.
A member of the Florida-based Blackzilians camp, Evans is currently training with two of Nogueira’s former fellows, Vitor Belfort and Mario Sperry, who until recently were training with Team Nogueira. In a recent interview with Brazilian outlet Portal do Vale Tudo, Nogueira said he is unconcerned with any advantage that might come from his former training partners assisting his upcoming foe.
“We cannot worry about that. You have to worry about what we will do and not the opponent,” Nogueira said. “I’m studying a lot of his fights. He is heavy -- a very well-rounded guy. [He has] very good takedowns, good boxing, a dangerous right hand, and he kicks well. He's a very complete guy.”
Currently 36 years old, Nogueira relishes the challenge of fighting a foe like Evans. “Minotoro” was last seen dominating another former UFC light heavyweight champion in Tito Ortiz, finishing the Californian with brutal ground-and-pound to the body at UFC 140. The 11-year veteran now hopes he can repeat the trick against Evans and pick up his fourth Octagon victory.
“It will be a great challenge, and these are the challenges that make me train harder. I was unable to train [earlier this year] due to an injury on my knee, but challenges like this make me train harder and better, as I trained for the fight against Tito Ortiz,” said Nogueira. “It must be a really great challenge. I'm at a stage in my career, with my experience in making big fights, that this will be a great bout.”
Nogueira also commented on how he intends to reconcile the Evans training camp with his role as an assistant coach on the upcoming second season of “The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil,” which will see his brother, heavyweight Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, serve as a head coach opposite Fabricio Werdum.
“In the beginning, there will be someone in my place,” said the light heavyweight. “Then, halfway through, I'll be back. This replacing coach thing [also] happened to [Junior dos Santos].”
Speaking of the UFC heavyweight champion, Nogueira believes that “Cigano” is even better for his second duel with Cain Velasquez, which takes places Dec. 29 at UFC 155.
“As always, [dos Santos is] well prepared. He is an example,” said Nogueira. “‘Cigano’ is athletic and was praised even before joining the UFC. He's in his best physical condition, and everybody can expect a very aggressive ‘Cigano.’”