Heavyweight legend Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira has officially announced his retirement from the sport at the age of 39 and will now take on a new role as the UFC’s ‘Athlete Relations Ambassador’ for Brazil.
Nogueira’s retirement had been on the cards for some time as his performances had clearly been deteriorating in the latter stages of his career and he was spending more and more time out of the cage recovering from injuries.
It’s a testament to Nogueira’s famed fighting spirit that he kept on going as long as he did, and in the end it took an intervention from UFC President Dana White following a three-fight losing streak to finally convince him that it was time to hang up his gloves.
By that stage Nogueira had won just three of his last nine fights, but that won’t in any way diminish from what ‘Big Nog’ has achieved over the entirity of his career and he’ll still be remembered as one of the greats.
Among his many accomplishments it was Nogueira’s time in the revered PRIDE promotion in Japan that stands out the most, becoming the promotion’s first ever heavyweight champion in 2001 with a win over Heath Herring, and though he would eventually lose his belt to another legend Fedor Emelianenko in 2003 he won an interim version of the title again later the same year with a submission win against Mirko ‘Cro Cop’.
He then reached the final of the PRIDE: Total Elimination tournament in 2004 before again losing out to Fedor, then reached the semi-finals of the 2006 heavyweight tournament before eventually leaving for the UFC in 2007.
Along the way he defeated the likes of Dan Henderson, Josh Barnett, Fabricio Werdum, Mark Coleman, Sergei Kharitanov, Bob Sapp and Semmy Schilt, and it’s important to keep in mind when reading through these names is that this was at a time when these fighters were largely in the prime of their careers.
At the time Nogueira was famed for his world class Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skills with many of his victories coming by way of submission, together with his remarkable ability to withstand punishment and find a way to get his hand raised, while even in defeat he’d never been stopped inside the distance.
Nogueira continued to excel early in his UFC career resulting in him winning the interim heavyweight title by defeating Tim Slyvia in early 2008. Many years of wear and tear, including a childhood accident where he was run over by a truck and lost a rib and part of his liver, finally was beginning to take it’s toll though and later that year he was TKO’d for the first time in his career.
That really marked the beginning of his downward trajectory and he suffered a few KO’s and submission losses along the way, though also managed to rack up further wins over Randy Couture, Brendan Schaub and Dave Herman along the way.
At this stage it’s a relief to see Nogueira finally call time on his career so that he won’t have to withstand any more punishment and as a beloved, charismatic elder statesman of the sport he’s a pefect choice to be an ambassador to those who now attempt to follow in his footsteps.