Mauricio "Shogun" Rua (Pictures) started 2008 in a new home.

The fighter left Chute Boxe and, along with three former Chute Boxe teammates, created the Universidade da Luta. With the structure of his new team almost set, Rua spoke with Sherdog.com about his plans for the year ahead, which includes a showdown against former UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell (Pictures).

What did you think about Chuck Liddell (Pictures) as your next opponent?
I think that was a great choice. Liddell is a great fighter and it's a good fight for me because he is a very famous guy in America. Liddell is a tough guy, hard to defeat, but I think that there are no easy fights in my weight division. I'll go straight up over him and I'll give a great show to my fans.

You were going to fight before in an earlier UFC event, but the schedule was changed for you to face Liddell. The UFC asked you to fight in this event to face Liddell and due to this you'll fight in June?
That was it. Before I was scheduled to fight in April, but suddenly they called me to offer this fight and I was like "nice, very happy with that!"

Liddell is one of the top fighters in the weight division, a very respected former champion. Do you believe that a victory over him will put you back at the top of the ranking and you'll be able to fight for the UFC belt?
I'm sure of that. A victory over him will give me an "upgrade," but I'm not thinking about the belt -- I'm thinking of Liddell. He is a complete fighter, very tough and on top of the category. He deserves a lot of respect. So, I don't have to think about the belt before this fight against him. I'm thinking of him as a tough opponent that will be in my way, not the belt.

You started 2008 creating a new team. What are your plans for this year?
In 2008 my goal is to train even more. Now I'm establishing my team along with my brother Murilo Rua (Pictures), Andre Dida and Mauricio Veio. I'm working on my cardio with Alejo Morales in the afternoon, and I train Muay Thai and BJJ at night.

Tell us about your new team's structure.
We are a close partnership with me, my brother, Veio and Dida, along with Hercilio, a businessman who will invest in our gym and manage the athletes. For sure it will be a perfect partnership because we will have great athletes. I just want to train more and more. I'm actually not worried about the organization because this is Hercilio's job. My only concern is the training.

Are there other known fighters in addition to you four?
We have a lot of fighters, but we will only announce their names after the opening, which I'm expecting to be right after Carnival. Our gym will have the largest mat in Brazil.

Who will be the coaches?
The physical conditioning is under Alejo Morales. We worked with him before, and for sure he is a top professional here in Brazil. Muay Thai will be taught by Mauricio Veio, a great professional in this area. About the BJJ, we are discussing who will be the coach. We will look for a very qualified person in this area; this is the only thing missing at our gym.

Are you worried about losing the quality of your training and sparring, because now you don't have all of the people you used to train with at Chute Boxe?
Well, I've been back to training only for a few weeks, but I'm training more than ever. I'm working a lot on cardio and jiu-jitsu. In Muay Thai we have 15 athletes, and the training is as good as was at Chute Boxe. I can guarantee you that.

Wanderlei Silva (Pictures) also left Chute Boxe last year. How is your relationship with him?
Wanderlei is a good friend of mine. He was here in Curitiba and called me. We talked for a while, and the doors of our team will always be open to him. Like he said, that his gym's doors will be open for us.

What do you think about his fight against Chuck Liddell (Pictures)?
I talked to him about that fight, and we have the same opinion: He trained a lot, but he didn't have much sparring. I think this fact warmed him a lot.

And how about your brother? What does Murilo Rua (Pictures) have ahead for him in 2008?
He will fight in March, probably for Cage Rage's title. For sure he will bring this belt to us, if God wishes. My brother is in his prime, and soon he will be among the top.

2008 must bring a lot of new things to your career. What can your fans expect this year?
I want to say to my fans to be calm, keep believing and supporting me. I live for the fight. I'm 100 percent focused on fighting. I wouldn't leave Chute Boxe without having a structure like I have. So I want my fans to keep supporting me, sending me good thoughts. Because for sure my greatest motivation to fight is my fans, to pay them back all the affection they give me.

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