Brazilian mixed martial artist Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira has spent most of his professional career fighting in Japan, most notably under the Pride Fighting Championships banner. During his time there, he was heralded as one of the best heavyweights, not only in the organization, but also in the world.

Nogueira’s world-class jiu-jitsu combined with sharp boxing and strong overall game earned him the Pride heavyweight title a decade ago, while at the same time, garnered the respect of MMA fans from all across the globe. From Japan to the United States, Europe and his home country of Brazil, “Big Nog” has touched the hearts of diehard fans for several years.

What is surprising is that with all his accomplishments and countless memorable performances overseas, Nogueira is yet to fight within the borders of where he resides. But with UFC 134: Rio, Rodrigo is finally getting his chance to put on a show for his fellow countryman and display his prowess live for the Brazilian faithful.

The excitement to fight in front of the supportive home crowd can hardly be contained, especially after waiting 40 fights to do so.

“It’s going to be my first fight in Brazil (and) my 40th fight of my career,” Nogueira said at the UFC 134: Rio press conference. “And I’m very excited to fight here. I’ve never had the chance to fight (with) the whole crowd on my side.”

Traveling to Japan to fight for the Pride promotion for all those years couldn’t have been an easy excursion. While there, Nogueira wouldn’t have a lot of familiar faces to support him, other than a few exceptions, and sleeping in his own bed was obviously not in the cards for the Brazilian heavyweight.

Now fighting in the UFC, “Big Nog,” at this late stage in his career, has more opportunity than ever before to fight all over the world. UFC 134: Rio couldn’t be a better set-up for the former Pride heavyweight champ.

Heck, he could close up the doors to his gym and take a two-minute ride to the venue for his fight on Saturday night.

With everything related to fight week being so convenient for him in Rio de Janeiro, Nogueira doesn’t feel any pressure going into his bout with Brendan Schaub. Actually, the mood seems as though there is no pressure whatsoever. The vibe and energy Nogueira feels from the home crowd and anticipated family in attendance motivates the MMA veteran to perform that much more in Rio.

Just as this is his first time fighting in Brazil, it is also the first opportunity for his daughter and father to witness him fight in person.

“The arena is just one mile from my gym, so I know all my students are going to be there,” he said. “(It’s) the first time I’m going to fight in front of my family, my daughter, and my father. I’m very excited for that. (Seeing) the energy and all the people on our side, (I’m) going to take it as support, instead of the pressure.”

Follow @Erik_Fontanez on Twitter or e-mail Erik Fontanez.
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