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5 Oz. Exclusive: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira predicts Couture to defeat Lesnar in new interview

Former PRIDE heavyweight and current UFC interim heavyweight champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira is only 32 years of age but is already a legend in the martial art of Brazilian jiu-jitsu and the sport of mixed martial arts.

Despite an amazing resume that includes a 31-4-1 record with notable victories over Tim Sylvia, Josh Barnett, Fabricio Werdum, Ricco Rodriguez, Mirko Cro Cop, Sergei Kharitonov, Mark Coleman, Dan Henderson, Bob Sapp, and Semmy Schilt, Nogueira still has yet to become the star in the U.S. that he was in Japan.

However, starting this Wednesday at 11 p.m. ET, things for Nogueira will change as make his reality television debut and begins to reap the benefits of being attached to the UFC’s most prominent marketing vehicle: “The Ultimate Fighter.”

Nogueira and Frank Mir will serve as opposing coaches on this year’s show as they each will get the opportunity to work with four lightweight and four light heavyweight fighters striving for the goal of becoming the next Ultimate Fighter. Then on Dec. 27 in Las Vegas, the two will square off for Nogueira’s interim heavyweight title and the right to face the winner of the Randy Couture vs. Brock Lesnar heavyweight title fight scheduled for UFC 91 on Nov. 15.

Even though the show has yet to air, Nogueira is already reaping the benefits from being involved with the show, as he’s receiving a lot of exposure after having done a media tour for the show on behalf of Spike TV last week. During his tour, received an opportunity for an exclusive interview where we discussed Minotauro’s experience on TUF; his feelings about the return of Randy Couture and whether he resents him for leaving in the first place; his prediction on the Couture vs. Lesnar fight; his thoughts on Rafael Feijao and Lyoto Machida, and more.

Sam Caplan: Can you talk about your experience as a coach on “The Ultimate Fighter?”

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira: I had a good time and I had a good team. Before I became a professional fighter I was a jiu-jitsu coach and I did some boxing as well. So I had good coaching experience. I coach the Nogueira team with my brother in Brazil, where I coach jiu-jitsu and MMA. So to me it wasn’t that hard of a job. My team helped me a lot. They were all very good. So it was a good time and a good experience to coach on the show.

Sam Caplan: When Randy Couture left, you expressed in interviews that you would have liked an opportunity to fight him for the title. Did you take it as a sign of disrespect that he was so focused on a fight with Fedor that he felt he need to walk away instead of fighting you?

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira: I don’t care what other people say. I care about doing my job and reaching my goal. My goal is to fight for the belt. I wanted to fight Couture when I came to the UFC and he left. But he is back now and I could have a chance to fight against him. My goal is to fight Randy and to win the fight. I am thinking a lot about it and I intend to do everything in my strength to fight for the belt.

Sam Caplan: How do you feel about Brock Lesnar getting the first opportunity to fight Randy Couture for the heavyweight title?

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira:
Brock Lesnar is a marketable fighter. He could be big in the UFC and I think he’s good for business. He’s a good fighter and in his early fights he’s shown he’s legit and that’s why he’s getting a chance. He’s a fighter with a style that makes things harder for Randy Couture because he’s a wrestler. Lesnar will probably try to play the top. But Couture is a more experienced fighter and I think he’s going to do better in the stand up with his hands and that’s why I think he’s going to be the winner of that fight.

Sam Caplan: Your twin brother, Rogerio Minotoro, is an extremely talented fighter in his own right. Has he ever been offered an opportunity to compete for the UFC?

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira:
Rogerio Nogueira is fighting for Affliction now and he’s very satisfied there. (But) I’d love to see us fighting again for the same organization. The UFC might be good for him. It’s a good name and a good brand. But for now, he’s fighting for Affliction.

Sam Caplan: You’re a co-trainer of EliteXC light heavyweight Rafael Feijao. He has demolished his competition so far. How do you think he would be in the UFC light heavyweight division?

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira:
I think that whenever he goes to the UFC that he’s going to do great. He’s a really good talent; a great fighter. He’s one of the best at 205 in the world right now. He’s new to a lot of people but they’ve got to see this guy. I first saw him a couple of years ago. I was going to buy a farm and he was studying to be a veternarian and I saw him walking a goat. He said some things to me. So I go to his house and he had mats there and I found out he was a black belt in jiu-jitsu. So I rolled with him. The first time I trained with this guy I thought he was going to be a champ. So I asked him to become a professional fighter and to move to my place. And he immediately started out very well in his training but I pushed him very hard for years. He trained three times a day every day for three or four years and now he’s a big name. He’s going to going to be the champ for Elite(XC) for sure and in the future when he gets to the UFC he’s going to be a beast.

Sam Caplan: Speaking of Feijao, I was at his last fight in July in Stockton when he beat Travis Galbraith. And after the fight I went back to my hotel the same night after he had fought I saw you and your brother out jogging at night while everyone was at after-parties. It just surprised me to see you working so hard so late at night with your fight still many months away. Can you talk about the motivation for pushing yourself like that?

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira: The motivation is that if I want to be the champ, I’ve got to train. My brother was supposed to fight in October so it wasn’t that far. When he has a fight, we train together. And when I have a fight, he trains me and motivates me. That’s why we workout together and we’ve worked together successfully for many years. It’s easy to become a champ but it’s hard to stay there. He keeps me up all the time. He makes me food every day. He takes care of my diet and he takes care of my training. And I take care of his MMA and his jiu-jitsu because I’ve coached boxing and coaches jiu-jitsu. We’ve worked together very hard.

Sam Caplan: I wanted to ask you about another fellow countryman, Lyoto Machida. Do you feel he’s getting the respect he deserves?

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira: Lyoto Machida deserves a title shot. He’s a good fighter. He’s very successful in his fighting. He’s a very respectful guy. He has a lot of power and good jiu-jitsu. He has good Karate with good kicks. He’s a good athlete and good all-around. He uses combinations and puts on a good show. In his last fight vs. Tito (Ortiz), he dominated the fight. Tito couldn’t put him down or control him. He had a hard time with him so I think he deserves to have a title shot. And when he gets his title shot I believe he’s going to be the 205 champ of the UFC.

  • platypus says:

    kool thanks, nog is my fav fighter.

    its just good they they all belong in different organziations, otherwise feijiao would eventually have to deal with machida if in the ufc, and rogerio as well if he was in the ufc.

  • Davey D says:

    I am pulling Nogueira to defeat everyone he faces in the UFC. Be it Frank, Randy, Fedor…all of them. I hope that when he is done. He will be considered the best ever. He has a great story, is very humble and puts on some of the best fight’s you’ll ever see.

    Defeating Sapp and Cro-Cop like he did made me a fan and his battles with Fedor proved just how tough he really is. His heart as a fighter has no equal and is an amazing person all around with great character.

    I would also like to see his brother Rogerio in the UFC somewhere down the line. He is one of the best in the world at 205. It was too bad he didn’t get to fight Wand last year when Hendo got the call instead.

  • Buddha says:

    Interesting how he says, “When Feiljao goes to the UFC” Like it is a foregone conclusion that he ends up in the UFC. So what does everyone think, will he be in the UFC as soon as his EliteXC contract is up or do you think he will have to wait long than that?

  • Davey D says:

    Rafael Feljao has the fighting albility to be in the UFC and succeed right now. I’d like to see him win an EXC title possibly defend it a few times. Wheter or not he gets a chance to do all that remains to be seen. Same thing with Lil’ Nog too. Will he get a chance to do the same with Affliction?

    Imagine if their camp held all the major titles at 205 in MMA? It is very possible they could. What if Feljao and Minotoro both landed in the UFC? A lot of talent lies in Brazil.

  • FD says:

    Sam you seem a little trigger happy with the “exclusive” tag lately. Please correct me if I’m wrong but exclusive means you were the only one he gave an interview to, right? A guy from Cage Potato seems to have also scored an interview Nog as part of this press tour, which mean he didn’t exclusivley talk to you right?

  • neijia says:

    Yeah, “Big Nog” is the best hw in the UFC right now. Regardless who wins Couture vs. Lesnar (I still pick Lesnar), Nogueira will emerge victorious over Mir, then the winner of that match. I’m a big fan of Mir, though.

    Also, as boring as most people think Machida may be with his long range technical style, he deserves his title shot, and Nogeuira may be partial but that he predicts Machida will hold the title gives this notion more weight, at least in my mind. I can’t imagine Griffin or Evans easily winning against Machida’s “unorthodox” style of karate+sumo with either a punching/brawling style, a leg kick style that Griffin used against Rampage, or any other game plan (bjj? gnp?). Machida could dominate LHW.

  • Caleb Mock says:

    Neijia, You must remember that if either Forrest or Rashad face Machida then they won’t be fighting him alone. They have the two best gameplanners in the world behind them in Couture and Jackson. Neither Forrest or Evans have completely defined styles and would come to the octagon armed with a well thought out plan for “The Dragon.”

  • Nate says:

    Big Nog! I cant wait to see him fight Frank Mir.

    I think Big Nog would be able to submit Lesnar pretty easily….but after seeing Tim Sylvia fail at knocking him out, I’d like to see Lesnar try.

  • Powers says:

    It is a foregone conclusion that he will go to the UFC, because he looks like shogun in his prime. And all the best end up in the UFC eventually. It is the premiere promotion with the best 205 division around.

  • darkmetal says:

    You notice that Mir has not said, at least not yet, that Randy will be the winner in this fight.

    I think that not having faced Lesnar’s unparallelled power, it makes one think that Lesnar is all about sloppy fighting and that he is stoppable via a good gameplan. Mir certainly knows that, save a lucky ankle lock, he could easily have lost his last fight with Brock Lesnar. Not much prepares one for fighting “the Vanilla Gorilla”.

  • neijia says:

    Caleb, I still can’t imagine either Forrest or Rashad easily winning, but either it’d be a really exciting match with one of those guys pressing for action, or another snoozer with too much cautiousness, depending on your pov. I really enjoyed Machida-Ortiz but a lot of fans seemed disappointed.


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