Motivated Nog is motivated.
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira will step into the Octagon against Frank Mir at UFC 140 on Dec. 10, 2011, nearly three years since they last met at UFC 92 back in 2008. And when the cage door shuts at the Air Canada Center in Toronto, "Minotauro" will have one thing on his mind.
That's because Mir was the first fighter to ever stop the Brazilian, who built a storied career on his ability to absorb punishment prior to pulling off a submission win, as documented in his fights against Mirko Filipovic and Bob Sapp, among others.
While much of the talk surrounding the outcome of their first meeting centered on Nogueira's health, specifically a recent bout with staph infection, there were other contributing factors as well.
Here's what he told media members on today's UFC 140 conference call:
"For the last fight, we had more distractions and we'd just finished the (TUF) show a couple months before in Vegas and it was hard to train over there. When I came to Brazil, I didn't feel like the camp was really good. I feel more popular, more explosive and more confident now. I'm more focused on what I'm doing and I've got my sparring partners and been able to train the way I wanted. I feel this camp is better than the last one and I know Frank's improved since the last time I fought him but I'm in shape and I'm ready to go and I'm excited to fight."
As expected, Mir isn't buying it, and recently reiterated his argument that the only reason Nogueira lost back at UFC 92 is because he was the better fighter.
"Minotuaro" made the decision shortly after to take an extended vacation from the Octagon to get the necessary treatment, which included several surgeries, in order to come back healthy enough to get his career back on track after two knockout losses in three fights.
And that's exactly what he did, returning this past Aug. 27 in his native land of Brazil to knock out Brendan Schaub inside the very first round.
For his part, Mir was last in action in May, picking up a dominant decision victory over Roy Nelson, who, admittedly enough, was suffering from walking pneumonia at the time.
Anyone ready to pick a winner for this heavyweight rematch? And where does a big win put them in the division title chase?