Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira hasn’t set foot in the Octagon since losing by first-round knockout to current heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez at UFC 110. That was February of 2010.
It appears that he’s still a ways off from a return.
Despite two successful surgeries so far, Nogueira has another to go, and more rehab, before he can resume fighting.
He was scheduled to rematch Frank Mir last year at UFC 119 in Indianapolis, but that’s when things started to head south. Nogueira tore his ACL in training. The injury required surgery.
His hips have also been a recurring problem in training, so Nogueira is getting them repaired while he’s at it. At 34 years of age, he feels he’s still got a few good years left and wants to give himself the opportunity to compete at a high level.
“He first had his knee surgery and then he had his hip surgery. He’s still rehabbing his knee and he’s rehabbing his hip at the same time,” Nogueira’s manager, Ed Soares, told MMAWeekly Radio on Tuesday.
“He’s probably going to go in and have his other hip surgery in mid-February.”
Shortly after suffering the knee injury last year, the hope was for Nogueira to return by late spring or early summer this year, but they’ve pushed those expectations back a bit.
It will take several months to rehab the second hip, and having been away from the Octagon for so long, Nogueira will need a little time to ramp his training back up to fighting level. There is, however, a definite target in mind.
“His ultimate goal, he’d really like to fight on the Brazil card. He thinks he’d be ready to fight on that Rio card,” said Soares. “If he could fight there, I think he’d be a big draw down there. He’s a huge legend down there. In a perfect world, he would love to fight in Rio.”
The Brazilian fight card Soares is referring to is UFC Rio, which Ultimate Fighting Championship officials announced in mid-December. UFC Rio will take place on Aug. 27 at the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro.
The UFC has upwards of 40 Brazilian fighters under contract. If healthy, Nogueira likely has an edge over most of those fighters in claiming a spot on the UFC Rio fight card. In more than a decade of fighting, he became the first Pride heavyweight champion, is a former UFC interim heavyweight champion, and has fought against most of the top heavyweight fighters in the world, amassing a 32-6-1 record.