Average Joes Interview: Antonio ‘Minotauro’ Nogueira

Ahead of the release of EA Sports new game, UFC 2, and UFC London: Silva vs Bisping we were put through some MMA circuits while testing for changes in lactate levels and power when punching a target. During the event, we were lucky enough to catch up with UFC and Pride legend Antonio Nogueira, or ‘Big Nog’. Nogueira had his first professional MMA bout in 1999 and is one of only three men to hold a belt in both Pride and the UFC.

We talked about the evolution of MMA, Antonio Nogueira, speaking at the EA SPORTS UFC 2 ‘Finish the Fight’ shoot, said:

With you having fought in both Pride and the UFC, how have things changed from when you started out to now?

There are a lot of good athletes, the guys learn how to work in the cage, the cage game is a little bit different, I think more stand up, the wrestling got better, better wrestlers in the game, a lot of physical and good athletes. People find out the way to test things, to train better, the physical training and combining it all, before it was martial arts fighter, now it’s an MMA fighter. Before it was a Jiu Jitsu guy fighting someone else. Now the kids learn since young, growing up doing different things. I have a lot of students, like 2500 kids, and 13000 students in Brazil, and they all train MMA, they don’t want to just learn Jiu Jitsu any more, it’s Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai combined. The kids grow up doing different things, the sport grows and it’s good, a lot of testing, the UFC are building a new training centre in Vegas with lots of focus on power punching and things like that, physical testing. I think the evolution of the sport is really good.

How did the training camps for your later UFC fights differ from your fights when you were first starting out?

You know, we had some differences in the physical training, resting time and combined better. Mostly a physical change, more specific training than we use to do. Before it was a boxing day, a wrestling day whereas now it’s all more combined. A lot of cage work, because we going to fight on the cage a lot of the time, and always combine things. Not just one martial art but 2, 3, 4 things.

Do you prefer the old days of fighting in the ring, or in the cage?

Fighting in the ring you could get closer to your opponent because of the corner, it was easy to put them into the corner. With the cage there is more space, move more, learn how to use the cage so it’s even better for the wrestlers or strikers that adapted their wrestling. It can be hard to keep the guy on the ground, because he can use the cage to get up, a combination of striking and wrestling works well but people can not forget about Jiu Jitsu, it is the mother of mixed martial arts. If they don’t know Jiu Jitsu they can’t work.

You fought Fedor as well as Werdum and Cain Valasquez, with everyone in their prime, who was better?

You know Fedor had a lot of power in his prime, very powerful. Cain is different, he is a complete wrestler. I fought Werdum before and two or three years ago, he has improved a lot, especially in the wrestling game, working on it in California. I think Werdum is one of the most complete fighters in this moment.

So if Fedor was still at his prime now, who would win?

Fedor was good, an excellent wrestler, excellent punching power, but he and Werdum have fought and Werdum won. In his prime, you cannot measure in this time right now, but for sure if Fedor was in his prime, he could do better than he did in the last fight.

You have obviously worked a lot with Anderson Silva, do you think he was the greatest of all time?

What he did for the sport, not just speaking as his friend but from the outside, what he did in the past 7 years for the sport, for my country and for the UFC, he promotes the sport really good. I compare him with Mike Tyson in boxing when he was at his prime. He knocked a lot of good opponents like Belfort, Franklin, who were great fighters really easily, and it was magic what he did for the sport. A lot of new guys coming up but we cannot forget what he did. He is in better shape right now, it took more than a year and a half to really recover, he had trauma on his mind and was blocked. He wasn’t 100% in his last fight, now he is 100% and we think we are going to see Anderson Silva getting back into prime shape.

You have fought injured a number of times, after staff infection and such. Is there a point when you say no, you can’t fight through it?

When I fought in Pride I had a hernia in my back big time, I fought with no ACL against Valasquez, no ACL in my leg and I fought Mir with a staff infection. Never say never but when the promotion is already there, and they have done so much for the fight, I cannot refuse the fight. Thinking about my title or my career is not right, you have to think about the show. A lot can happen, the sport is very intense, most of the time the fighters will have problems with fingers and little things, if it’s not a big problem then I think the fighter has got to fight. It is not a violent sport but a straining one.

Previously there were many dominant champions such as Anderson Silva, Jon Jones, Jose Aldo etc but now it’s all mainly new champions. Do you think the time of the dominant champion has gone or will we see it again?

You know for the last year everything is changing, only Demetrious Johnson and Robbie Lawler have really held onto their titles, you know there are a lot of good guys, and now there is a lot of travelling and when you are a champ, you have to do a lot of different things, media and so on so the fighters sometimes get tired. Doing too many things and as the sport grows, if you blink your eyes, someone is going to take your belt.

Antonio Nogueira was speaking behind the scenes at the EA SPORTS UFC 2 ‘Finish the Fight’ challenge event. Out on the 17th March on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, pre-order now and find out more about the launch of EA SPORTS UFC 2 at easports.com/uk/ufc