It is sad to say, but it looks like the time has come for Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira to hang up the gloves.
“Minotauro” Nogueira was absolutely demolished by Roy Nelson in the main event at UFC Fight Night 40 from Abu Dhabi. The MMA legend was floored twice by “Big Country” before being knocked out cold by a thunderous overhand right at the 3:37 mark of the first round.
Some newer fans to the sport may only know Nogueira for his UFC performances, but the former Pride Heavyweight champion has been fighting the cream of the crop for over 14 years.
“Big Nog” earned fame in Japan where he defeated a slew of legendary opponents such as Heath Herring, Mark Coleman, and Enson Inoue during his reign champion, before losing to the consensus number one heavyweight of all time, Fedor Emelianenko at Pride 25.
His bout with Coleman was particularly influential to the evolution of the sport and to how heavyweights approached fighting for years to come. Up until the fight against Nogueira, Coleman had been steam rolling opponents in Pride, as no one had an answer for the former Ohio State Buckeye and NCAA national champion’s explosive take-downs and devastating top game. If Mark “The Hammer” Coleman established top position, he was going to smash you until you either gave up or the bell rang, but Nogueira changed this with one arm-bar at Pride 16 in 2001. The bout showed that there was an answer to the over powering wrestler at heavyweight, and it paved the way for future heavyweight submission specialist to follow.
After the dissolution of Pride Fighting Championships, “Minotauro” made the jump to the UFC heavyweight division were he captured the interim UFC heavyweight championship at UFC 81 against Tim Sylvia. This victory made Nogueira one of only three men to have held a title in both the UFC and Pride, along with Mauricio Rua and Coleman.
Nogueira’s career has been nothing short of legendary, and fans always hope for such a warrior and hero to go out with a victory, but is it worth the risk?
The future Hall of Famer is 2-4 in his last six outings, and three of those losses came in devastating fashion. Other than his recent drubbing from “Big County” Nelson, Nogueira was violently stopped by now champion Cain Velasquez at UFC 110, and in his rematch against Frank Mir at UFC 140 the former Pride champ had his shoulder torn apart when Mir caught him in a kimura in the first round.
Throughout his illustrious career the Brazilian Jiu-jitsu black belt has been heralded for his toughness and grit, but at this point he has nothing left to prove.
There is no doubt that this is not how Nogueira wants to end his career, but with the amount of damage he has accumulated in his recent fights a hero’s farewell seems out of the question. Unfortunately this is the nature of MMA, age catches up with every fighter and whether or not they are fit to continue fighting at the highest level is often not up to them.
Fellow legends of the sports Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture both fell victim to this attempt to go out on a high note. Both were knocked out brutally, and there is no need for “Big Nog” to travel the same path.
He could have retired four years ago and still would have gone down as one of the top three heavyweights of all time. Nogueira has served as a mentor to countless fighters such as former champions Anderson Silva, Junior Dos Santos and Lyoto Machida and has helped shaped how we see mixed martial arts today. We don’t need to see him get flattened another time to validate his place in the history of the sport.