Former PRIDE and UFC heavyweight champ Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (32-6-1 MMA, 3-2 UFC) is not yet out of the woods in getting back to fighting shape.
Nogueira soon will undergo a second arthroscopic surgery on his hips and still is recovering from ACL surgery on his left knee. He likely faces several months of physical therapy before he is able to train again at full speed.
After initially targeting a return in spring, manager Ed Soares today told MMAjunkie.com Radio (www.mmajunkie.com/radio
) the fighter now eyes a return at the UFC's second trip to Brazil, which is slated for Aug. 27 at HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro.
And now that former champ Brock Lesnar has taken a gig as a coach on "The Ultimate Fighter 13" with an add-on title-eliminator bout against Junior Dos Santos at UFC 131, the door is open for a return opponent.
Why not, Soares asks, book a rematch with Frank Mir for "Big Nog?"
"That would be an interesting fight," he said.
The two were scheduled to meet a second time this past August at UFC 119 before the severity of Nogueira's injuries forced him to withdraw from the fight. (Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic stepped in on a little more than a month's notice and got knocked out in the fight's final moments after nearly 15 minutes of tedious non-action.)
Recently, Nogueira said he'd love to tackle Lesnar. But the Brazilian also has pined for a rematch since their first fight at UFC 92, when Mir dominated him in striking en route to a second-round TKO victory. In several post-fight interviews, Nogueira revealed his battle with a bad staph infection that required a five-day stay in a hospital prior to the fight. Additionally, he suffered from an injury to his left knee that eventually forced him to undergo surgery this past fall.
Nogueira's recent injuries have prompted speculation that an 11-year career at the highest levels of MMA finally has caught up to him. With Nogueira's ability to take a spectacular amount of punishment before turning the tables on his opponents, fans have questioned whether he can continue fighting.
The former champion hasn't competed since February 2009 when now-champion Cain Velasquez knocked him out in two minutes and 20 seconds at UFC 110.
"There's no doubt that 'Big Nog' has been in a lot of battles," Soares said. "People have said he'd like the Rocky Balboa of MMA. I never understood why Timex didn't want to sponsor him; he takes a licking and keeps on ticking.
"But I can tell you that [Nogueira] still feels good. He still feels like he's got some great fights in front of him. His big goal is to try to be able to fight on that Brazil card. He's going in for his second hip surgery, I believe, in a couple weeks. He's already had his knee and his other hip done. But the recovery is coming along well. He's doing a lot of physical therapy. I believe we'll see 'Nog' come back."
Of more than 30 Brazilian fighters under UFC contract, Nogueira is one of a handful who seems a no-brainer for the summer card – if he's healthy. Teammate and middleweight champion Anderson Silva also appears to be a lock.
"'Nog' is a huge superstar out there, and I think that he'd be able to pack a stadium," Soares said.
But while the exact timeframe of Nogueira's recovery won't be known for some time, Soares assured fans that the legend isn't going anywhere.
"You'll definitely see 'Big Nog' back and winning fights again," he said.
For the latest on the UFC in Brazil card, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of MMAjunkie.com.