MMA isn’t like other sports, and home-field advantage usually means squat.
That’s how Brendan Schaub sees it anyway.
So when the fast-rising heavyweight contender meets MMA legend Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at Saturday’s UFC 134 pay-per-view event in Rio de Janeiro, he said all the pressure will be on the Brazilian.
Schaub (8-1 MMA, 4-1 UFC), a runner-up on “The Ultimate Fighter 10,” attempts his fifth straight UFC victory when he meets Nogueira (32-6-1 MMA, 3-2 UFC) at HSBC Arena. Their PPV main-card bout is one of the featured attractions on the historic card.
Schaub, who could have waited a month to fight at UFC 135 in his home state of Colorado, instead wanted to take the fight to Nogueira’s homeland.
“I asked to fight in Brazil,” he told MMAjunkie.com Radio (www.mmajunkie.com/radio). “This card is one for the history books. It’s possibly the biggest card of the year. It’s something I wanted to be a part of.
“To fight a guy like Nogueira in his hometown … none of the guys who have fought him have beat him in Brazil. That’s why I wanted this fight. There’s a lot of pressure on me; don’t get me wrong. But if you’re fighting at home, especially a fight of this magnitude, there’s a lot more pressure on Nogueira.”
Nogueira, who’s spent much of his career in Japan with the now-defunct PRIDE organization, has lost two of his past three fights, and he’s been sidelined the past 18 months following knee and hip surgeries. However, after topping mid-level fighters such as Chase Gormley, Chris Tuchscherer and Gabe Gonzaga in his first few UFC fights, Schaub knocked out notable Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic in his most recent bout.
As with “Cro Cop,” Schaub sees distinct advantages in fighting a household name such as Nogueira’s.
“These guys, I can look back on it – even the people who aren’t real MMA fans, they know who these guys are,” he said. “So it does kind of mean more when you beat them.”
Schaub, a former member of the Buffalo Bills practice squad, took up MMA in 2008. And though the longtime athlete expected to be competitive, even he finds it hard to believe just how quickly his career has progressed.
“I can’t say I expected it to be this fast,” he said. “But I definitely expected to be in the (big) fights. Otherwise, I never would have gotten into it. Still, for me, it’s hard to sit back and realize, ‘I’m fighting ‘Big Nog’ in Brazil.’ I try to sit back and realize this is pretty cool stuff.”
To prepare for UFC 134, which marks the UFC’s first show in Brazil in 13 years and 161 events, Schaub recently headed to the country for a press conference. The 28-year-old said he never previously left North America, but he put the June trip to good use.
“When I went down there, I took my coaches with me, and we did it just like a fight week just to see how my body adapted,” said Schaub, who said the Atlanta to Rio flight lasts approximately 12 hours. “We trained at night when we thought the fight was going to be. I felt fine. And it’s East Coast time, so it’s not a huge problem.”
As for the fight itself, Schaub is his usually confident self. Much to the chagrin of his coaches, he said he’s quite tempted to test his grappling chops against Nogueira on the mat. (“My coaches called me an idiot,” Schaub joked.) But at the end of the day, the hard-hitting heavyweight knows exactly where his best shot at victory lies.
“I think my boxing can compete with anyone in the division, and I’m going out there to prove it and beat Nogueira,” he said.