Roger paid a visit to the Nogueiras’ Rio de Janeiro gym in preparing for his upcoming encounter with Anthony Smith at Strikeforce. (Photo by Marcelo Dunlop)
Late December 2012, and it’s a day like any other at the Nogueira brothers’ Rio de Janeiro academy.
Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira is out of the country again—he went to open a gym in Florida. Light heavyweight fighter Rafael “Feijão” Calvacante has already arrived and is counting the minutes until he can get on his friend, Rogério “Minotauro” Nogueira, for being late. In the dressing room the following dialogue can be heard:
– Bro, I’ve got mat burn all up and down my arm.
– I hear that. Y’know what I do? I wax my whole body.
The routine is only interrupted with the arrival of Roger Gracie, a middleweight on the Strikeforce roster and three-time winner of the Jiu-Jitsu World Championship absolute division, who starts slipping on his gloves as soon as he comes in.
It’s Coach Edivaldo Badola’s day to teach boxing class, and Gracie knows who he’s going to be trading blows with Mahamad Aly, an impetuous young man with a frightening look in his eye.
Aly, who was thus named by his mother, is 18 years old and hasn’t had a professional fight yet. After training, he turns out to be a friendly fellow and a prankster. During training, however, he looks like he wants to eat Gracie for lunch.
The session divided into five-minute rounds begins, and Minotouro and Feijão start digging their mitts into each other. When Nogueira falters, Feijão closes in to clinch and get the takedown a la Rashad Evans, Rogério Minotauro’s opponent on Feb. 2 at UFC 156. The heat helps soggy up the canvas with sweat in a hurry.
The towering Gracie keeps pushing forward in a calculated way, managing to find his mark with the big gloves. Seated during the break, Aly loses his scowl and speaks in praise of his sparring partner.
“All the ones you tried, landed,” Aly tells Gracie. “Keep at it.”
Now, Coach Badola wants to see Nogueira against Gracie.
Following a comment from Feijão about wanting Ryan Bader as an opponent for his UFC debut, Minotouro and Gracie take their places facing each other. The spar starts on the feet. Gracie doesn’t spend too long taking shots from the Pan-American boxing medalist before quickly grabbing hold of him.
Rogério Minotouro, a star on the UFC 156 lineup, and Rafael Feijão kick back after boxing and takedown practice. (Photo by Marcelo Dunlop)
When the two hit the ground, Nogueira quickly turns on all fours, and Gracie works at sticking in his hooks. During the break, the Jiu-Jitsu world champion offers Minotouro a precious tip on how to get up from all fours without exposing himself.
The session over, Gracie hits the showers and then gets interviewed by two news outlets—a local newspaper and a website specializing in MMA.
Nogueira also shoots the breeze with GRACIEMAG.com, praising the pace Gracie kept the times he came to train in Rio.
“People talk up Roger’s potential because of his height and reach, but what impresses me most is his confidence and how simple his game is,” Minotouro says.
“You see, the positions he does aren’t complex but he puts his all into what he does and is successful in applying them, Nogueira added. “He fights like that in Gi Jiu-Jitsu, too. I saw him roll with Arthur Gogó here and he was totally tight. On the ground there wasn’t a soul he didn’t get the neck of. Another strength of his that I got a sense of was his wrestling and takedown game. He’s got a really strong grip … When he got a hold of me there, I couldn’t do a thing, he just took me down.”
Strikeforce: Marquardt vs. Saffiedine
Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City
Jan. 12, 2013
- Nate Marquardt vs. Tarec Saffiedine
- Daniel Cormier vs. Dion Staring
- Josh Barnett vs. Nandor Guelmino
- Gegard Mousasi vs. Mike Kyle
- Ronaldo “Jacaré” Souza vs. Ed Herman
Undercard (only on Showtime Extreme)
- Pat Healy vs. Kurt Holobaugh
- Roger Gracie vs. Anthony Smith
- Tim Kennedy vs. Trevor Smith
- Ryan Couture vs. K.J. Noons
Undercard (not broadcast on TV)
- Jorge Gurgel vs. Adriano Martins
- Michael Bravo vs. Estevan Payan