Você quer ser um lutador?! Parte dois.
After an overwhelmingly successful first season, The Ultimate Fighter Brasil is ready and waiting to come back to Rede Global in 2013. Season one was spearheaded by the infinitely charismatic and beloved opposing veteran coaches: Wanderlei Silva and Vitor Belfort. Also, the show birthed inaugural winners, middleweight Cezar Mutante and featherweight Rony Jason, who already earned a Knockout of the Night bonus at UFC 153. In TUF Brasil 2, the coaches are bigger - literally - and the stakes are just as high, with two teams of wide-eyed welterweights seeking a lucrative contract and to be crowned tournament champion.
Recently announced, the second season’s competing coaches are UFC heavyweights Fabricio Werdum and former interim champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. These coaching choices will eventually lead to an end of the season showdown between the highly regarded fighters, which will be a rematch of their 2006 bout at PRIDE Critical Countdown Absolute. The two initially met in the quarterfinals of the PRIDE 2006 Open Weight Grand Prix, with a primed “Minotauro” taking on a fairly green “Vai Cavalo” in more or less a striker’s duel. The result was a unanimous decision win for the former PRIDE heavyweight champion Nogueira and a much needed learning experience for Werdum.
Last Thursday, “Minotauro” and Werdum took time for a conference call with the always curious MMA media about this engaging rematch and their role as coaches on TUF Brasil 2. As one would expect, by far the majority of the focus was on the forthcoming tangle between Nogueira and Werdum. In 2006, the storyline was a young Werdum facing the Herculean task of upsetting one of the division’s unquestionable elite in Nogueira. In 2013, Werdum will look to take the torch from the weight class’ former leader, while “Minotauro” will look to prove that this old lion’s claws are just as sharp as ever.
In the past few years, Werdum has emerged as an all-around threat to whoever unfortunately shares the cage with him. The 35-year-old from Porto Alegre entered MMA as a world-class Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, but recently Werdum’s striking has looked powerful and unrelenting, especially in his Fight of the Night victory over Roy Nelson at UFC 143. On the phone call, Werdum shared that he always looked up to Nogueira for his jiu-jitsu and to “The Axe Murderer” Silva for his aggressiveness. While Werdum’s BJJ has been assumed to rival that of Nogueira, nowadays thanks to striking coach Rafael Cordeiro, he appears to be just as dangerous standing as Silva too.
“Back then, I was pretty much a jiu-jitsu fighter,” tells Werdum. “I've worked a lot on my standup, and Nogueira has obviously evolved a lot too. It's just a great honor, and my biggest goal is to fight for the title. I have to win this fight in order to be in title contention. In the past few fights in the UFC, I have shown I have knockout power and I can have a Fight of the Night.”
Meanwhile, the 36-year-old living legend from Vitoria da Conquista is not competing for a title shot, but for a chance to continue battling those who are. “Minotauro” is in the odd position of being a friend, a training partner, and a mentor to the current UFC heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos. Nogueira has no plans to ever fight dos Santos, but he does want to scrap with the best the division has to offer and, similarly, has no plans to stop. The first step towards that goal, and a big one, was Nogueira returning from his arm surgery and defeating Dave Herman via submission in Rio at UFC 153.
“I had to prove to myself that I could go back into the cage and fight,” explains Nogueira. “It was very important to me. I wanted to prove I'm back again and I can fight with the best guys in the heavyweight division. Each fight you win, each fight you lose is one step forward and one step back and I want to fight the best guys in the heavyweight division. I want to be competing against those guys for sure, always.”
As far as coaching a Brazilian bunch of welterweight hopefuls toward their own UFC glory, both Werdum and Nogueira are honored with the opportunity and looking forward to the challenge. “It's going to be a very good experience,” says Nogueira, who previously was a coach for TUF season 8 against former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir. “I want to push to win the fights. I want our guys to want to be the champ. We will push for the best training and best technique.”
One bom turn deserves another with TUF Brasil 2, led by rival coaches Werdum and Nogueira starting in 2013.