Mauricio “Shogun” Rua was once the most dominant fighter in the world at 205 pounds. He dismantled Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. He obliterated Ricardo Arona. And he knocked out K-1 (and Strikeforce) stud Alistair Overeem not once, but twice. He came to the UFC bathed in glory, but inside the Octagon, something seemed to be missing. Heavy.com’s Jeremy Botter had a chance to talk to Rua about PRIDE, about the UFC, and about making his way back to the top of the sport.
Heavy.com: Let’s go back to the beginning of your career. What made you decide to go into mixed martial arts? Was it a natural progression from your days as a teenager training in muay thai and jiu-jitsu?
Rua: My biggest reason to get into MMA was my brother, Murilo “Ninja” Rua. He was already training before me, and that got me inspired to go and train as well. Later he was a professional fighter already, and I was working with my father as a salesman, and he insisted that I should go to Chute Boxe, train and give it a try, and so I did.
Heavy.com: You were an integral part of the Chute Box team. What was the key to the success of that team? Was it an intense atmosphere?
Rua: I think the key to the success of Chute Boxe was the strong winning mentality the team had. Everybody at Chute Boxe was highly confident, and that was a result from the philosophy and work passed on by the trainers.
Heavy.com: During your days in PRIDE, you were known as the best light heavyweight in the world. What were some of the highlights of your time in PRIDE?
Rua: Pride was special in my career and I have many great memories. I think the highlight was the 2005 Grand Prix run, when I got the belt. From the first fight with Rampage, going through the fight with Little Nog (Antonio Rogerio Nogueira), and then the finals with Overeem and Arona. It was the best moment I had in Pride for sure.
Heavy.com: Do you have any regrets from your PRIDE days, like anyone that you wanted to face and didn’t?
Rua: No, I have no regrets at all. Back then I did all I could to represent my team, my fans and myself obviously, and I fought most of the big names I could at the time. Things in life are the way they should be, and those were great days.
Heavy.com: You made the transition to the UFC and had a tough loss to Forrest Griffin. How much did the multiple knee injuries hamper your ability to train for the Griffin and Coleman fights?
Rua: It obviously hindered a lot, not only the injuries itself, but the fighting and training rhythm, as you stay sidelined for long and can’t continue to develop in the training properly. However, I don’t like to give out excuses about my loss to Forrest. I decided to take the fight, and therefore he deserved the win and it’s all in the past.
Heavy.com: In PRIDE, you were known as a master of kicks and stomps to grounded opponents, but because of the Unified MMA Rules, you weren’t able to bring those into the UFC. Did losing those tools from your arsenal hurt? And was it difficult to revamp your style to fight without them?
Rua: Well, everybody knows that kicks and stomps to grounded opponents were part of my style and fighting skills, and we trained a lot to use them back in the Pride days. At first it was tough to adapt to the rules, but in my two fights in Pride in America I already had to adapt and work with the unified rules. What affected the most early in the UFC was the size of the octagon and the different environment, but now with time of training, as I have an official sized cage in my academy now, and with the fights I had in the UFC already, I feel perfectly adapted.
Heavy.com: Your matchup with Chuck Liddell was a dream match for many hardcore fans of the sport. How did it feel to score such a decisive win over Chuck? Do you think Chuck’s best days are now behind him, or does he still have something left to offer the sport?
Rua: It felt great. Liddell is someone I admire a lot, as I watched his fights even before I dreamed of being a professional fighter. It was a key moment of my career and the win felt awesome. As for Chuck’s status right now, I think that’s for him to say. I believe he can still compete, but only he and his family and trainers can make a decision on what’s best for him. I wish him the best though.
Heavy.com: Now you’re facing Lyoto Machida for the light heavyweight title. He’s known as one of the most elusive guys in the sport and has the ability to make great strikers miss. Have you seen any weaknesses in his game, anything you can exploit?
Rua: Every fighter has weak points, as every fighter has strong points. There’s no perfect fighter, and there’s always something you think you can do and exploit. We trained hard to do what we believe is right, and we’ll see how it goes on October 24th.
Heavy.com: You gained a lot of popularity for being a relentless striker, always charging forward and going for the kill. Is that something you can execute against Machida? Or do you plan on being patient and waiting for him to present an opening?
Rua: My team and I developed the strategy we feel is right, and we plan on executing it on the fight. A fight is a fight though, and many different things can happen. Machida is a great fighter and we respect his favorite status, let’s see what happens by fight time.
Heavy.com: If you beat Machida, you’ll have ended his undefeated streak and you’ll be the new champion of the division. Who, in your mind, would you like to face? Would a bout with Anderson Silva be something that interests you?
Rua: I don’t really think about that. Machida is the champion right now, and I have to fight him and beat him. Only after that I’ll stop to think of it, along with my manager and my team, and most importantly this is the UFC call. Right now, all my focus is on winning the fight and I can’t look past it, it would be a huge mistake.
Heavy.com: Thanks for your time today, Shogun. Good luck at UFC 104.
Rua: Thanks a lot, and thanks to all the fans for their support as always! It’s going to be a great fight.
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