Heating up for PRIDE 19:
Minotauro Ready To Prove It Once Again!
By Eduardo Alonso
PRIDE’s heavyweight champion Rodrigo "Minotauro" Nogueira is one of the few fighters in the NHB game that enjoys the position of unanimity. No one questions Minotauro’s technique. Despite that he is always willing to prove what he believes inside the ring, and he will never pick his opponents. The Brazilian Top Team member became the PRIDE champion in November, after an impressive win against Heath Herring, and this will be the first time he will fight after he won his belt. With PRIDE 19 less than a week away, Minotauro is leaving for Japan today, but he managed to share his views about the fight with FCF before his departure, as FCF keeps heating up for PRIDE 19!
FCF: This is your first fight at PRIDE since you became the Heavyweight champion. Are you feeling a bigger pressure now that you have the belt?
Minotauro: Look, I’m feeling a bit more pressure. I think it’s the responsibility of doing an exciting fight. But I’m tranquil, my main concern is to try to do my best, try to put at least 50% of everything that I train here at the academy in the fight. But no pressure is bigger than the pressure that I put on myself to perform well and please the fans.
FCF: Speaking about the pressure that you put on yourself, you are a fighter that impresses everybody with the quickness that you improve your game. You seem to pick-up techniques very fast, and your game seems to be always evolving at an amazing speed. Do you believe this is also due to the pressure that you put on yourself?
Minotauro: Of course, but ever since I came to the Brazilian Top Team, and even before, I work a lot! There is days that I train 6 or 7 hours per day, both the technical and tactical training, in fact not only the technical training, but my fighting strategy as well. And the technical condition that my team gives me helped me to evolve a lot, not only in the Top Team, but also at Luis Alves, where I train Muay Thai. We train Muay Thai and NHB there too. At the Top Team I was able gather this two trainings, and I believe this was the key for me.
FCF: Your opponent at PRIDE 19 is Enson Inoue, who already beat names like Randy Couture. What do you think of Enson as an opponent?
Minotauro: I respect him! He is a very technical fighter. He dominates the ground technique, which I also do. He is a fighter that likes to trade standing up, inclusively he is a guy that goes to trade toe-to-toe and now he went to Thailand to train Muay Thai. So, he dominates both techniques, on the ground and standing up and I also do. So we’re going to get in there and test our techniques.
FCF: Do you believe the fact that he is also a Jiu Jitsu fighter, like yourself, will help or hinder your style in the fight?
Minotauro: Look, I like to fight against guys that are good ground fighters, because the guy will get there and play the game with me, play my game. He will not stall. If he wants to play with me and open the game with me, the fight will turn in to a beautiful fight! All of the sudden he could stall the game a bit since he knows his ground game, and this is my concern, if the other guy starts to stall or to slip all the time, and the fight becomes an ugly fight for the public. So, if he is a smart fighter and wants to do a good show for the public, we have the condition, with his technique along with mine technique, to give a great spectacle for the public.
FCF: What do you think of Enson’s ground technique?
Minotauro: In the NHB game he succeeded in applying his technique very well. He likes to catch the arm, like I saw in some of his fights. Like in his fight against Royce Alger in the UFC, and of course his fight against Randy Couture, where he managed to get a nice arm-lock. Even in his loss to Mark Kerr he managed to hold on till the end thanks to his ground technique! You got to keep in mind that when Mark Kerr was at the top a lot of people failed to hold Mark Kerr. So I admire his technique, he has guts and he has a lot of heart.
FCF: This is your first fight as the PRIDE champion, but your belt won’t be on the line. Do you think that is takes off some of the pressure, or even adds more pressure in to the fight?
Minotauro: Look, I understand PRIDE’s situation. Vanderlei is going to put his belt on the line now, against Tamura who is a famous guy in Japan. So, maybe it wouldn’t be good for them to get two main events in the same night, two title fights. Because you got to have one fight that will draw the entire event, and this time it’s Vanderlei’s fight. It would even be bad for me to share this with him, so I believe in the next time I’ll even be used to fight as the champion, and I will lose a bit of this weight that was put in my back for this fight. So I believe the next time will be the right time to put my belt on the line.
FCF: You have been showing a very good Muay Thai in your last fights, even against Heath Herring. Do you still emphasize on this part of the training? How was your preparation for this fight?
Minotauro: I use to do the technical part on the mornings, but I stop doing in on the last month because now I’m doing only the specific fighting training. But usually I would do the technical and physical part on the morning, training positions and doing my physical preparation. In fact I did that last month, for about a month or so. Then I started only doing the fighting part of the training, and this consists of some ground positions that I train on the morning, and after 6 pm I do only a lot of Muay Thai! I leave my home close to 6 pm and I’ll only get home after 9 pm. So for me one thing complements the other, and on the intervals I also train Wrestling with Darrel Gohlar.
FCF: Who will be on your corner for this fight?
Minotauro: I believe Mario Sperry and Luis Alves.
FCF: You have been trading a lot of punches in your latest fights. Have you been feeling more comfortable fighting standing up with all that Muay Thai training you is doing?
Minotauro: Look, I trace a strategy before I get into the fight. But the strategy will vary a lot according to the opponent’s answers for it. If I enter the fight looking to trade, and I can even be better technically than him, but he manages to close to distance and stuff and I don’t feel comfortable to trade, I’ll go to Jiu Jitsu, where I also have the resources to do a good fight. And If I’m not going anywhere on the ground, like it happened with me before in a fight against Jeremy Horn… I wasn’t being able to get him, he was very slippery and the ring was also very slippery. I know that I wasn’t being able to develop my game like I would like to do, so I started to look for the standing up fight! I believe a fighter must have a lot of resources in his game. I started to fight standing, to get some takedowns, and to score points. Because in a fight there’s a time that you feel that you won’t be able to get your opponent! As I felt with Heath Herring! He was playing defense against me! He entered my guard and didn’t try to pass it. He didn’t open and kept his elbows closed all the time. While on the ground he kept pushing and I felt his was resting to stand up again, so I thought "Well, I’m going to rest too and I’m going to trade now". So I try to feel my opponent! I can’t tell you how the fight is going to because sometimes things don’t go according to your game plan. But I’m prepared to trade! I’m training it everyday the same way that I train the ground game.
FCF: Speaking about your fight against Herring, did you hurt your knee during that fight and kept going? What really happened?
Minotauro: No it wasn’t my knee. When I entered on a punching sequence while we were on the corner he managed to hit me with a low kick on the posterior side of my thigh. And my muscle sort of locked in a way that I wasn’t being able to bend or strain my leg! And this happened right in the first round, at around 8 minutes in to the fight I believe. There was even a time that I got his back on the fight, and I couldn’t develop my game very well. When the round was over, between the first and the second round, Luis Alves did a quick massage on the muscle, and he even couldn’t do much so Herring would not see what was happening! Then in the middle of the fight it didn’t get back to normal, but it improved a lot and I could keep on fighting till the end. But I complained a lot during the fight "Gee! Is hurting a lot" and my corner would say "No, no! This is your chance! you got to go till the end! C’mon!" I wouldn’t say that I thought about quitting during the fight, but it was very tough.
FCF: You have been winning a big number of fans in Japan with your victories there, but this time you’re facing a local hero. Do you believe the crowd can be a factor in this fight?
Minotauro: I don’t think so. The Japanese public enjoys technique, and when I’m doing a good fight they’re screaming and stuff, so this motivates me to do my techniques. I feel that the Japanese public respects the fighter a lot; not only the Japanese fighter, but also they respect any fighter. If you get an arm-lock, or a beautiful position he will cheer the same way. He is there to see the techniques, not only to cheer for a fighter. And I believe that there are a lot of people there that, despite liking Enson Inoue, will cheer for me too!
FCF: How do you think this fight will unfold?
Minotauro: I’ll try to fight to get a finishing hold. I don’t know what he is planning, but he is also a guy that loves to finish the fights with submissions. I believe this has a great chance of happening.
FCF: Right now you’re focused on Enson, but what are your plans for the future? Is there anyone that you would like to fight?
Minotauro: Look, I think that I would like to fight one day against Randy Couture. The public demands this fight. Everyone keeps asking me about it, if I would like to face him and stuff. He is someone that I would like to face. He is the UFC champion and is a great fighter, and I believe this would be a challenge that would attract me a lot.
FCF: Do you believe an interchange between the UFC and PRIDE would be good for the sport?
Minotauro: I believe it would be good for the UFC and it would be good for PRIDE if they could do two fights, one in America and the other in Japan. It would be a great attraction and it would only help the sport. It would get the American public more used to PRIDE, and the Japanese public more used to the UFC. It would make the UFC more popular in Japan and PRIDE more popular in America. But I guess they are thinking about doing it, even doing a PRIDE in the USA.
FCF: Any final message for your fans?
Minotauro: All that technique that I have been showing in my fights, and everything that I was able to accomplish so far comes from the motivations that my fans give me. The Japanese fans, the American fans, and even the fighting people here in Brazil are already talking about my fights, and the fights in general, so I think that NHB as a sport is already becoming more popular! So the motivation is bigger! The fighters are training more and becoming more professional! And the important thing is that all that motivation comes from the public! So all that I can say is thanks a lot!
FCF: And do you have any message for those that are willing to take away your belt?
Minotauro: I have been training a lot! And now that I have the belt I want to keep it. My battle was to get to the top, and now that I got there are still a lot of fighters that I have to beat to try to prove my technique. To prove that I’m not there by accident. So now I’m training a lot and it won’t be easy to take the belt from me! I want to be with the belt, or at least fighting for him, at least in the next 10 years or so, because I believe the belt’s home is here in Brazil.
FCF: Thanks a lot for the interview! And good luck in your fight.
Minotauro: It was my pleasure!