Many people were surprised when UFC heavyweight and light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier told MMA Junkie that he would consider giving former 205-pound titleholder Maurico “Shogun” Rua a title shot — should Rua put forth an impressive victory in his fight at UFC Hamburg.
Alexander Gustafsson was expected to get the next title opportunity should he defeat Volkan Oezdemir at UFC 227, but Cormier said he is reluctant to face Gustafsson unless he does something spectacular on Aug. 4 — their first fight at UFC 192 didn’t draw well on pay-per-view.
Cormier also said because Rua is a former champion and a legend in the sport, Rua deserves the opportunity to face him in his final fight at 205 pounds before Cormier retires next March.
“I got very happy at Cormier’s statement for obvious reasons because my dream is to be able to fight for the belt and win the belt again,” Rua told Sporting News through an interpreter. “But at the same time, I know that my opportunities and success depend on each and every fight. I need to keep winning fights for thing to happen. And right now, I have a very tough fight ahead of me against Anthony Smith. He’s a very tough fighter and it would be foolish to think of anything else right now.”
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Originally, Rua was scheduled to headline this card against Oezdemir, but the former light-heavyweight title challenger got shifted to UFC 227. For a short period of time, the Brazilian didn’t have an opponent.
“I actually got a little worried for little while because for a brief while, things weren’t happening for a finding a replacement fighter,” Rua said. “Nothing had been set in stone yet. I got worried for a little while, but that didn’t last long because soon enough Anthony Smith took the call and thing worked out and I was motivated again for the fight.”
Between December 2012 and November 2014, Rua lost four of five fights. It appeared his best days were behind him and a title shot was in his rearview mirror, but “Shogun” has gone on a career resurgence, reeling off three consecutive wins.
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How did the MMA legend go from being close to retirement to now being on the verge of something no one thought could happen 3 1/2 years ago?
“It was a combination of things,” Rua explained. “I think the training and most of all, my experience. I think I consider myself an experienced fighter now-a-days. And those combinations of things have been able to handle the situations that I have faced myself and everything else. It’s come in handy and has certainly helped me.”