Mauricio Rua is no longer fighting the No. 2 light heavyweight Volkan Oezdemir next at UFC Hamburg, but could still be one fight away from a shot at the belt.
The former 205-pound champion headlines the UFC Fight Night event in Germany on July 22 against Anthony Smith, who stepped up on to replace Oezdemir on less than a month’s notice.
“Shogun” admits that facing a guy that is not ranked in the top 15 could affect his title aspirations, but told MMA Fighting he still thinks he will be “one step closer to fighting for the belt if I beat Anthony.”
Daniel Cormier, who currently holds the UFC light heavyweight belt, also became the heavyweight championship with a stunning first-round knockout over Stipe Miocic at last Saturday’s UFC 226 in Las Vegas, and said on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show that he would like to face a “legend” like Rua next.
“Shogun” agrees, and is even down for a quick turnaround in November, like Cormier said on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour.
”I think Cormier is a great athlete, a compete fighter,” Rua told MMA Fighting. “Winning this fight I absolutely deserve this chance because of my history and my career in MMA.”
The Brazilian veteran does not think Cormier will retire when he turns 40 in March like he has said many times — “he’s probably making a lot [of money] as a champion to stop now,” Rua laughs —, and wasn’t surprised by how quickly the light heavyweight king was able to stop Miocic in Las Vegas.
”It was no surprise to me,” “Shogun” said. “Cormier is used to fighting big guys at heavyweight and beat Miocic decisively. I had no favorites in this fight, anyone could win.”
Holding the light heavyweight and heavyweight belts simultaneously in the UFC will likely put Cormier up in many people’s “greatest of all times” lists, and Rua thinks he has cracked into the top 5.
”He’s under Anderson (Silva), Wanderlei (Silva), Fedor (Emelianenko), some guys that have done more than him so far,” Rua said, “but I think he’s not that old and can still do a lot more.”
If Rua really does get a chance against to challenge Cormier for the belt later this year, he expects a rough time getting prepared to face such a complete fighter inside the Octagon.
”It’s tough because he’s well-rounded, is good standing and on the ground, has one of the best wrestling in the UFC,” Rua said. “It’s tough because you have to train everything for him. It’s a big challenge, but you become a target when you have the belt because that’s what everyone dreams with.
“But I’m actually not thinking about the belt now because I have a good opponent ahead of me and I can’t think about it. The belt is my dream, of course, but I have to go step by step. I know that I will be closer if I win this fight.”
All Rua thinks about now is defeating Smith. He’s upset that Oezdemir was forced out of the fight for a second time in months, but celebrates that someone like Smith has agreed to face him on short notice.
“We have to always be ready for any situation,” Rua said. “The styles match up well because I was training for a striker for five months and Anthony is a striker as well, so it wasn’t a terrible change.
”I’m working hard on my muay thai so I’m not surprised by him because he’s good on the feet, but I also know that his ground game is not that efficient. It’s a MMA fight. If he gives me an opening I will take him down and work there.”