UFC officials recently announced that Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Fabricio Werdum will coach the second season of “The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil,” after which the heavyweights will toss aside their clipboards and strap on their gloves for a rematch that Nogueira says he is already eagerly anticipating.
“I’m very happy to fight Fabricio Werdum,” Nogueira said during a media conference call on Thursday. “He’s a very high-level opponent, and I’m pretty sure we’re going to make a really good fight.”
Nogueira and Werdum previously met in the quarterfinals of Pride’s 2006 open-weight grand prix, with “Minotauro” emerging victorious via unanimous decision. Six years after their initial showdown, Nogueira says that another victory over Werdum could propel him toward a return to the heavyweight division’s upper echelon.
“This next fight is going to be very important for me, because each fight that you win or lose is either one step forward or one step back,” said Nogueira. “I want to be between those guys in the Top-5.”
Nogueira recently returned to competition after spending 10 months on the shelf with a broken arm courtesy of Frank Mir at UFC 140. The former Pride champion stepped up on short notice to face Dave Herman three weeks ago at UFC 153, submitting his younger foe with a second-round armbar in front of a raucous crowd in Rio de Janeiro.
“This fight against Herman, for sure, was a challenge for me, because I just got back from my injury. They put 16 screws in my arm,” said Nogueira. “Coming back and fighting in Brazil was a big challenge and a big step. It was very important to me. I’m back again, and I want to fight the best guys.”
Should Nogueira get past Werdum, who is currently ranked fourth in the world, the veteran’s stock would surely rise. However, even if the 36-year-old continues to post big wins, his path to the title would still be impeded by his friend and training partner Junior dos Santos, who currently sits atop the heavyweight mountain. While Nogueira is still adamant that he would not challenge his teammate for the belt, the veteran says he would jump at the chance to fight for the championship under any other circumstance.
“I have no [desire] to fight Junior dos Santos. He’s my friend, and he’s my training partner. I saw this guy train since he was a purple belt,” said Nogueira. “But if there is ever a chance or a day when he does not have the title anymore, for sure, I would love to fight for the belt. That’s the goal of everyone in the heavyweight division.”