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Global Training Report


Interview with

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira 

and Remarks by Members of Top Team (Mario Sperry, Ricardo Liborio, Ricardo Arona, Paulo Filho)


Gong Kakutougi, No.113, Sep.2001


Interviewed by Paulo Ruy Barbosa

Translated by Kondo Yoko


[Note: Mark The Hammer Coleman pulled out of the fight. Nogueira's opponent will be erstwhile kukusulwon stylist Gary Big Daddy Goodridge]. 

Q: The members of the Top Team seem to get along with each other.

Nogueira: Yes, we always help each other so that we can improve ourselves together, especially by doing as much sparring as possible. I am doing a lot of sparring with Vitor [Belfort], [Ricardo] Arona, and [Mario] Sperry.

Q: As everybody is together here now, I would like to ask you how you think about Nogueira.

Arona: Minotauro [Nogueira's nick name] is a very logical fighter. He thinks very deeply about what he is doing. He does an explosive move, and thinks, then does an explosive move again, and thinks, and then he waits calmly for his opponent to make a mistake.

Q: Alan Goes, a member of the Top Team, evaluates him that Minotauro is the very man who is worthy to be called the king of the kings. Do you agree with him?

Arona: Yes, that's right. Minotauro shows excellent moves, and won all his fights by finalization, except for the one with Han Volk [Russian Sambo guy]. All of the Top Team members are proud of him.

Mario Sperry: I consider Minotauro like my younger brother. I always give him a lot of advice not only on the ring, but also in his private life.  We respect each other as close friends. We have made good results on the ring so far. I am trying to pass on to him all the experience I've had. He learns so fast. Indeed he is an all-round fighter to be a model for 21st century. He is good at both standing and ground work. He is in a good condition, and besides he can hold on against punches.

Filho: Minotauro made an excellent result in KOK (King of Kings). He proved how much Brazilian jiu-jitsu is superior to any other kakutougi on the ground by defeating Russian, Japanese, and Dutch fighters so easily.

Liborio: He has improved himself since he started training in the Top Team. He was a good fighter even before he joined our team, but he needed something more. Now he becomes a complete fighter by doing a correct training, and is making progress everyday. There are sparring partners with various kinds of style in the Top Team. Minotauro's twin brother is also ready to fight. The two brothers are like peas in a pod, both very strong.. I plan to let him debut at DEEP 2001.

Q: Sounds interesting. OK, then let's back to the subject. It was decided that you will fight with Mark Coleman in Pride 15.

Nogueira: It was my long wish to enter Pride. It is one of the best Vale Tudo competitions, and it is great to be able to fight with the best Vale Tudo warriors. Of those, Coleman, one of the best fighters, was chosen as my opponent. That is indeed what I really wanted. I am ready physically and mentally. I can fight with anybody. I have already studied Coleman's fighting style. I am looking forward to fighting with him.

Q: Don't you fight in Rings any more?

Nogueira: I concentrate on my own training, and leave the business to my manager. So it is his job to find a best chance for me. If I get a good offer from Rings, I will fight in Rings again for sure.

Q: How do you think about Coleman?

Nogueira: He is a very tough fighter. He possesses important elements for Vale Tudo such as  strong power and quickness. But he'd better train very hard to fight with me, because I am going to drive him into a corner many times (laugh). He is a great fighter, but not invincible. He sometimes makes a mistake like anyone else, and I am going to attack when he does. I am studying his strategy well. He has excellent take-down technique. But if he depends on his explosive power and quickness from the beginning, he will get tired and make a mistake.

Q: I see. But all the world are paying attention to the fight between you, the king of KOK, and Coleman, the king of Pride Grand Prix..

Nogueira: I guess so. It is the fight between two Vale Tudo kings. The winner will get a big attention from mass communications too. This is the fight I want all the kakutogi fans to watch. I will show you the best of myself.

Q: But, unlike Rings, it seems difficult to use your favorite submission under the rule of Pride.

Nogueira: Surely I can't do the same move on the ground, because I have to be careful about kicks, punches, and knee kicks.  But it doesn't mean that I can't take a position to finish him with submission. Anyway I will do my best. If he fights openly without stalling on the ground, I think I will have a good chance to put an end to him.

Q: The sweep, for example, which you did in KOK tournament, exposes you to danger of getting punches on the face.

Nogueira: To tell the truth, I changed my way of training. I have no intention to use such a technique to a fighter like Coleman on the first round. But I might use it after that. He might get exhausted around that time, and his punches won't be 100% any more.

Q: That's a good idea. You often take your opponent down by a tackle. If you try to do it to Coleman, there is possibility to get a counter knee on your head like Alan Goes did, isn't it?

Nogueira: When I fight with Coleman, I will revise my strategy from what I normally do. I am going to try to fight in standing with punches and kicks. I will go to get his leg when things get bad in standing (laugh). According to the research on his strategy, he seems to be better at defending against take-downs more than at doing take-downs. He is undoubtedly good at tackles, but he is also well-known as one of the greatest fighters who has technique to avoid to be taken down. His counter knee is so good that I am training Muay-Thai very hard to fight with him in standing.

Q: What is a special training you are doing as a counter-measure for Coleman?

Nogueira: If it becomes a long fight, maybe I can defeat him either in standing or on the ground. So I am focusing on getting stamina and technique training. He will attack me mainly centering on punches and tackles with a explosive power. So it will be a fight of two different styles.

Q: Did you study by watching Coleman's videos with the members of the team together?

Nogueira: I've already watched some of his fights on video, but the video of his three fights before one with Goes is supposed to come here tomorrow. I will watch them together with the trainers, and make a game plan. I am already well-prepared for a fight with such an opponent like him.

Q: OK, then, everybody! What is your prediction of his fight with Coleman?

Arona: It will be a tough fight, without a doubt. But Minotauro has already made a plan for the fight. He shouldn't fight Coleman with power to power. Coleman is very powerful and has a lot of endurance, so Minotauro has to fight cleverly. In a fight a long ago, Coleman became short of breath after an aggressive move for about three minutes. But now he is gaining stamina, so it's getting hard to defeat him. Minotauro will have to put forth the best of what he has technically and mentally. In this sense, it will be a great fight.

Liborio: Regarding the fight with Coleman, I trust Minotauro in terms of both technique and spirit. One of his characteristics lie in his extremely strong personality. In a fight he is very calm and never loses his self-possession, and does a clever fight in a relaxed mood. These are very important elements for the fight with a strong enemy like Coleman. Coleman is really strong. Who can defeat such a man is only a fighter who has an excellent technique, a lot of stamina, and a strong spirit. And Minotauro will surprise a lot of people. I am sure that he will make Coleman confused mentally by using a psychological strategy. That is a key to success. He is better at the ground technique than Coleman, so he can finish Coleman that way too. 

Mario Sperry: Coleman is a prominent fighter. His power is extremely strong. But he is not as a all-round fighter as Minotauro. So it must become a hard fight for Coleman. A possibility of Minotauro's win is very high. If I bet money, I will bet on Minotauro. He might be able to win by one point, or by decision.

Q: Do you think Coleman will take a ground & pound strategy?

Mario: I guess so. But what is advantageous to Minotauro is that he knows what Coleman will do. Coleman's team, on the other hand, doesn't get the entire picture of Minotauro. I think Coleman will try to win depending on power. We watch his video everyday, and know what we should do. We are well-prepared for the counter-measure for Coleman.

Filho: I think Coleman is the best heavy fighter who ever had in Vale Tudo. Coming from wrestling is something advantageous. He has a strong power and fighting spirit. He has come back to the top again by learning from the mistakes he did in the past. Meanwhile, Minotauro has a fantastic ground technique. His strike is excellent too. It is difficult to predict who will win, but it will be no doubt an exciting fight to such an extent that all the  spectators will stand up. I expect Minotauro to show a great performance and defeat Coleman. Coleman is a great fighter so that it is difficult for Minotauro to attempt a take-down. Maybe he will have to fight from the bottom. But he can finish Coleman even from that position. 

Q: I see. It makes me more interested in the fight.  By the way, you also have fought with Japanese fighters so far. How do you think about Japanese fighters in general?

Nogueira: Lately their level is going up, and Japan is one of the three strong countries. Fighters in Brazil, America, and Japan are best. 

Q: Who do you think is best among Japanese fighters?

Nogueira: Yesterday I watched the video of Yuki Kondo. I think he is one of the most dangerous fighters in the world. He also possesses all the basic elements for Vale Tudo; both standing and ground work. And Fujita is a powerful fighter with a wrestling style. Kosaka is always fighting with the best opponent in the best competition. And Kanehara too. They all have their own style. And Sakuraba has proved enough so far how great he is. I think he is the best Japanese fighter, because he is more technical than anybody else and truly an all-round fighter. If asked who is tough among Japanese fighters, it might be Fujita. But he is not as all-round, and not as technical as Sakuraba. I respect Sakuraba in that he can perform various style of fights like what he has done so far. In my opinion, Sakuraba is best.

Q: Do you want to fight with Fujita next?

Nogueira: Yes, I do for sure, because he is tough and a star in Japan. If I keep on fighting in Pride, I will fight with only strong fighters. So I think Fujita will be my good opponent after Coleman. Such a strong jaw.... It will be a great fight.

Mario Sperry: It seems to be Japanese fighters who prominently grew up in Vale Tudo in the last few years. Japanese people are very clever and greedy for learning. In my opinion, I think Sakuraba and Fujita are best in Japan. But we must not forget other great fighters like Kaoru Uno, Mach Sakurai, and Rumina Sato.

Filho: Sakuraba is best among Japanese fighters. He is pretty prominent compared to others. He has proved it on the ring. I met Kikuta in Japan. He is very friendly and seems to be a good guy. He won in 90 kg class in Abu Dhabi by defeating Saulo [Ribeiro]. He is very strong. It seems that he wants to fight with Liborio, but Liborio is strong too. He showed a great performance in the fight with Minowa. I fought with Minowa too, but Minowa is dangerous and one of the best fighters in Pancrase. I think a fight between Kikuta and Liborio will be great. 

Liborio: Japanese fighters have trained jiu-jitsu pretty much lately, haven't they? And also they have been fighting and training with Brazilian fighters. These must be the main reasons for their recent progress. In my opinion, the best Japanese fighter is Sakuraba. But Kikuta, Minowa, Sakurai, and Kondo are great too. 

Q: Oh, everybody is well acquainted with Japanese fighters.

Liborio: And I have a big news. We have a plan to open the dojo of Brazilian Top Team in Japan soon. And also we will start a new special program in Rio in September. I am planning to ask five Japanese fighters to stay in Rio for three months. Now I am just choosing fighters. 

Q: Let me interview then (laugh). In the end, could you give a message to the Japanese fan?

Nogueira: You can't miss the fight between Coleman and me. I will do my best and show you the best fight.