The Nogueira brothers are united in their opinion that Rogerio - otherwise known as Little Nog because he is a light-heavyweight - must be close to a title shot now that he has taken a win over Rashad Evans, the former champion.
Rodrigo - the former PRIDE FC heavyweight champion - says that “Before [Rogerio]'s fight, Dana White had told me that if my brother would beat Rashad [Evans], he would be in a very good position, among the best of the ranking. If he wins the next one, he will be close to the title shot.”
And Rogerio himself thinks that he is “in the mix”, as Dana White is famously fond of saying. His win over Evans at UFC 156 was unexpected but he is triumphant. The only black mark on it was the absence of his bigger brother due to TUF Brasil commitments.
“I missed my brother in my corner so much. He uses to accompany me in all competitions, so I missed his support but I only have to value and emphasize my team mates and coaches Sergio Cunha, Edelson Silva and the Russian Khetag Pliev, who got me ready standing and were so conscious in the fight time, when they guided me on right path.”
"Everybody was willing to help me, sacrificing their schedules and dedicating almost exclusively for that fight and it is priceless. The result couldn't be anything other than the win.”
During three rounds, Rogerio dominated Evans - an athlete known for great conditioning. Nogueira not only overwhelmed the opponent but also snapped a long period of under-performance. He felt the effects of his long layoff but got confidence by feeling he was well prepared despite the lack of competition rhythm.
“I felt a little of ring rust in the beginning because I was more than a year without fighting and recovering from injuries, but then I loosed up and managed to impose my boxing and stuffed Rashad's takedown attempts,” he explains.
“My gas was so good. I didn't feel as good as in that fight for some time and it is not common to feel so well physically after a long layoff. Even moreso facing a vigorous and high-profile fighter as Rashad is. I couldn't expect a bigger return, I am very happy."
The 36 years-old veteran affirmed he will keep emphasizing wrestling in the camp and complimented the work carried out by Russian wrestler Khetag Pliev, who was brought for the preparation. Lil Nog would rather not project any future bout but he assured he is in the best contenders of the 205 division.
"I intend to continue training wrestling. This fight proved me many things. I always train with Erick Albarracin but he went to TUF with Minotauro and Khetag Pliev's arriving was crucial, so I intend to bring him back other times to support me. Regarding the next fights, I let it up to UFC but I believe with this victory I am in a great spot inside the category."
His brother Big Nog also had some things to say about title shots, laying claim to one of his own if it becomes possible. When his protégé Junior Dos Santos became champion, he relinquished all claim to the belt but now it is back with Velasquez he is once again interested.
“I fight for the title! If I have the chance, if they give me the opportunity, why not fight for it?", he told Por Dentro da Arena's blogger Gustavo Noblat, adding that former top contender Overeem's “loss [to Antonion Silva] was more than deserved, he was so arrogant.”