'Nog' in: MMAmania.com UFC 114 interview exclusive with Antonio Rogerio Nogueira

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The younger half of the "Flying Nogueira" brothers is southpaw light heavyweight sensation Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.

Best known for his days in PRIDE, "Lil' Nog" was scooped up by Dana White and the UFC following the dissolution of Affliction. He impressed immediately.

UFC 106 in Las Vegas would mark his entry inside the Octagon, but his inaugural bout would certainly not last long as he knocked out Luiz Cane roughly two minutes into the first round.

His encore performance at UFC 109 was hampered by an ankle injury and his return was rescheduled for May 29 at the UFC 114 event against former UFC light heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin. It was not meant to be as Griffin pulled out due to an injury. Jason Brilz was tabbed as his replacement.

"Minotouro" took some time out of his busy fight week schedule to discuss his brother Rodrigo's recent struggles, the late opponent swap, his interest level in still fighting Griffin someday and a potential rematch with Mauricio "Shogun" Rua looming on the horizon.

Check it out:

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): I wanted to start by asking you about your brother "Minotauro." He has lost two of his last three fights. Some are saying that he is slowing down and his skills may have started to diminish. Based on what you have seen in the gym and on fight night, do you agree with that statement?

Antonio Rogerio Nogueira: Rodrigo has been training hard as always. He is healthy and strong.  He still trains hard everyday with very tough guys.

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): If you did start to notice a regression do you feel like you would be able to be open and honest addressing the situation with him?

Antonio Rogerio Nogueira: His career is not over. I care for my brother we have always been together through everything, I know him very well.

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Ultimately, whose responsibility is it to oversee the well-being of a fighter as his career moves along?

Antonio Rogerio Nogueira: All of those involved care about his well-being and his health. Most of the guys we train with have known him for many years and have followed him through his career.

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): How much longer do you think Minotauro will continue to fight?

Antonio Rogerio Nogueira: Rodrigo still has fights in him. I hope to see him fighting again this year.

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): You made your UFC debut at UFC 106 last November. A lot of guys fighting in their UFC debut tend to tense up and it takes a while for them to settle into any kind of rhythm once the fight starts. Others let their emotions get the better of them and it hampers their cardio. You came out confident and sharp against Luiz Cane and finished him in the first round. What do you attribute your overwhelming success to in your debut?

Antonio Rogerio Nogueira: I am used to the pressure of fighting in big shows. I was very well trained and very well prepared for that fight. I was confident that I would finish that fight.

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): You had to pull out of a potential UFC 109 fight against Brandon Vera due to an ankle injury you sustained in training. Did it require surgery?

Antonio Rogerio Nogueira: The ankle injury set me back at UFC 109, but the doctors decided it did not require surgery. I just needed time to heal it properly and get back to training.

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): How is your overall health right now? Are you 100%?

Antonio Rogerio Nogueira: I feel great, healthy and strong.

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Forrest Griffin was then tabbed are your next opponent for UFC 114, but pulled out of the fight due to injury. Jason Brilz is now your new opponent. Do you feel like you've had enough time to prepare for Brilz?

Antonio Rogerio Nogueira: We were preparing to fight a striker and now I am facing a wrestler, but I am prepared and ready.

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Did you have to change anything around in your camp with the switch in opponents?

Antonio Rogerio Nogueira: I was in Brazil training and came to California to stay with my brother and train with some great guys out here, but my plan was to be in the US for a few weeks anyway. I think I got good training there for this fight.

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): What have you learned researching Brilz? What are his some of his notable strengths and weaknesses?

Antonio Rogerio Nogueira: He has strong wrestling and can also trade punches, but I am very confident in my boxing and my ground game.

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): If you are fortunate enough to come away with a victory over Brilz is there an opponent you would like to face next?

Antonio Rogerio Nogueira:  I will fight anyone, the best. I want to prove that I can also be a champion.

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Would you be open to still fighting Griffin once he is fully healthy?

Antonio Rogerio Nogueira: Of course, I would welcome a fight against Griffin some day.

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): How many wins do you feel like you are away from a title shot?

Antonio Rogerio Nogueira: I don't know. I hope that I keep having success in the octagon so the UFC and the fans feel I am ready for the title.

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): A man you know very well from your time in Japan, Mauricio Rua, recently captured the light heavyweight belt by defeating Lyoto Machida at UFC 113. Did you see the fight? If so, what did you think of Rua's performance?

Antonio Rogerio Nogueira: Shogun looked well-prepared. The outcome of the fight was a big surprise for everyone.

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Is a rematch with Rua something that you are interested in?

Antonio Rogerio Nogueira: For sure. I think we had a great battle in PRIDE and a rematch in the UFC would definitely interest me.

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Thank you for your time today. Is there any message you would like to pass along to your fans or any sponsors you would like to thank before we go?

Antonio Rogerio Nogueira: Thank you for the support. Don't miss my next fight on May 29!

Derek Bolender is a frequent contributor to MMAmania.com. He is also a freelance writer who has contributed to outlets such as CBSSports.com, FoxSports.com, and FIGHT! Magazine. Follow him on Twitter at @DerekBolender.

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