Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira is one of the most beloved heavyweight legends in the history of MMA.
Often mentioned along with his little brother Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, the man respectfully referred to as “Big Nog” has won championships in PRIDE FC and the UFC throughout his historic career. Combining crisp boxing with a top-level submission game, he’s racked up victories over Mirko Cro Cop, Randy Couture, Tim Sylvia, Mark Coleman, Heath Herring, Dan Henderson, Ricco Rodriguez, and Josh Barnett during his time in the game.
Between late 2000 and 2002, Nogueira racked up an impressive 13 victories in a row, most of them submission finishes. For roughly the first decade of his career, he only lost to three men.
Now retired and focused on other aspects of life including training up-and-coming fighters, Big Nog has had time to reflect on his historic career that spanned over fifteen years. A UFC Hall of Famer and former UFC and PRIDE heavyweight champion, he’s been used to fighting hard his entire life.
When Nogueira was a child, he was struck by a truck and hospitalized for nearly a year. It was a very tough period in his life and took a heavy toll on his body including leaving noticeable scars.
But before that, when he was only four, he was struck in the eye with a pair of scissors. The accident didn’t take his eyesight but affected it greatly throughout the rest of his life.
He said: “I had six surgeries when I was a kid, two when I was teenager, and two recent ones. I implanted an intraocular contact lens, and if you poke me in the eye really hard it moves. Imagine how many punches I took… I had to put it back in place all the time.”
His tenacity and willingness to rise to the challenge was evident in his fighting style. For years, he had one of the best chins in MMA. In PRIDE, he withstood brutal strike barrages on the feet from Mirko Cro Cop and the ground from Fedor Emelianenko. His UFC title win saw him lose multiple rounds decisively before rallying with a late submission.
He also revealed he was forced to go through surgery a mere two months before one of his fight but was still able to pass the pre-fight medical screenings.
Nogueira walked away from MMA in 2015, at least as an active competitor. After dropping three straight bouts to Fabricio Werdum, Roy Nelson, and Stefan Struve, his record came to 34-10-1. He also noted that repeated eye pokes in the Struve fight impacted his ability to see and dissuaded him from going for takedowns.
In addition to helping new fighters with their training, he now works as a UFC executive and an ambassador for Brazil. A passionate countryman who always spoke highly of his home, Nogueira is a recognizable face in the nation and has done a lot for upcoming fighters looking to make their name in the sport.