Former light heavyweight champion Mauricio Rua knows better than to think too far ahead of the task ahead – and that's his meeting with Anthony Smith at UFC Fight Night 134.
Rua has also learned that some things are ultimately beyond his control. So, if you ask "Shogun" (25-10 MMA, 9-8 UFC) if a title fight with doubles champion Daniel Cormier on Sunday will be followed by a win over Smith (28-14 MMA, 5-3 UFC), Rua (19659002) But if the question is whether "Shogun" as the case may be, deserves the opportunity to reclaim the UFC 205-pound belt? Well, that's a little different.
"I think if I win this fight well, I deserve to fight for the belt," Rua told MMAjunkie. "For my career, for my story, those who know me from the beginning know that I deserve this opportunity."
And that's about as categorical as Rua's going to talk about it while he thinks ahead.
"But that's beyond my control," Rua said. "It's not something I choose, Cormier, who mentions my name, makes it a lot easier, but I can not think about it when I have a tough opponent like Anthony Smith in front of me."
Having talked about past with Rua, know this kind of the current mentality is not atypical. You will not see the 36-year-old Brazilian making bold claims or bringing things to life. And while that may be part of his personality, it could also have something to do with adaptation.
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Rua, who had not fought since a TKO victory against Gian Villante in March 2017, should have returned to Japan last September, but his knee did not last. "Shogun" performed well against Volkan Özdemir – against a newly crowned defending champion against Cormier. This was canceled due to Özdemir's legal problems in the US
The game was rebooked two months later, but then another twist came: Özdemir was transferred to a UFC 227 meeting with Alexander Gustafsson. And then, Rua, who ranked No. 13 in the latest USA TODAY Sports / MMAjunkie MMA Heavyweight Ranking, went from hitting No. 7 Özdemir to meeting a newcomer in the 205-pound division at Smith's long-term middleweight division.
But "Shogun" says he was not disappointed when Smith – a name that might not strengthen his title case as strongly as Özdemirs – was offered to him.
"I'm thinking about winning," Rua said. "I'm thinking of winning this fight, which is a tough one, and if I win against anyone, I'm closer to the belt, that's what I think."
And if he has to constantly readjust frustration, he'll hide it well.
"I think these types of changes are inevitable," Rua said. "And it's not just today, it's always been like this, you can not count 100 percent on anything, but my luck was that my opponent switched to someone with the same profile as Ozdemir – comes from Muay Thai, likes to strike. So, that was it, I was fortunate to have an opponent who basically had the same strengths as Özdemir. "
So much the better that these strengths blend well with his.
"I think it's a good fight, this encounter," Rua said. "Because he's a guy who chooses to fight, so do I. We both are not standing, so I think that will make for an exciting fight, I'd rather fight people like him who are chasing the fight, the knockout hunt, as someone who wants to stop them, so I'm happy with it. "
Özdemir did not have the same luck. As originally reported by ESPN.com the 205 pound fighter has suffered a broken nose and therefore will not be able to go up against Gustafsson.
"Shogun," at the end, had not heard exactly what Ozdemir had tapped when he spoke to MMAjunkie – but immediately poured out his sympathy.
"It's really rough – the nose sucks," Rua said.
What that will mean for the 205 pound division and its cover picture will tell the time – and perhaps the two main battles of the Sunday event. But "shogun" knows it will make it more "open".
"I think it influences things because Özdemir is in the lead, and if he defeated Gustafsson, he could be one of the best challengers," Rua said.
When asked if he would like to meet Özdemir after two failed attempts, Rua offered "maybe, in the near future". But again it's the first thing for the former champion.
"Now I focus on Anthony Smith 100 percent," Rua said. "Then I'll see what I do, if I win well, I'll look for the belt, but I'll take it in battle."
A lot can happen in a fight – injuries. But, should "shogun" be intact, here's another piece of his future he's ready to project.
"Of course (I want to stay active)," Rua said. "When I fought (Antonio Rogerio Nogueira), I had not fought for a while (" The Ultimate Fighter Brazil: 4 "Rua trained), then I had some minor injuries, I would fight and I need to fight and, God willing, go at 100 percent so that I can return immediately. "
For more information on UFC Fight Night 134, see the UFC Rumors section of the website.