If Mauricio "Shogun" Rua walked away from fighting tomorrow, he would be regarded as one of the greatest fighters of all time and one of the few fighters who translated his success from Pride Fighting Championships in Japan to the UFC Octagon.
During its heyday, Pride was routinely seen as the superior MMA promotion, even more so than the UFC, and Shogun was right in the thick of it. He won the 2005 Pride middleweight Grand Prix tournament in one of the most incredible runs in fight history.
Even though his move to the UFC started out rocky with a loss to Forrest Griffin in 2007, Shogun bounced back and managed to knock out UFC legend Chuck Liddell before finally capturing the light heavyweight gold in 2010 with a knockout over Lyoto Machida.
Rua has been a part of two of the greatest fights ever with his 2005 matchup against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and then his bout against Dan Henderson in the UFC in 2011.
It's hard to imagine with that kind of resume that Rua is only 31 years old, but he's built a legacy of brutality as one of the most fearsome fighters of the last decade.
There's not much else Shogun could accomplish than what he's already done over the last 10 years, so why does he still do it?
"I feel like nowadays I fight to leave my name in history," Rua told Bleacher Report on Thursday. "It's a big motivation for me to really mark my name in the history of MMA. So it makes me very happy that people address me like this, like a legend."
Call it stubbornness, call it the will of a champion, but Rua is also still competing in MMA because he believes one day he can once again wrap the gold around his waist. He's never been outside of the top 10 of the light heavyweight division for the better part of the last eight years, and while his record has bounced back and forth between wins and losses for eight straight bouts, he never feels he's more than just a few wins away from getting back in line for a title shot.
"My goal, my focus was always fighting to be the champion. It still is," Rua stated. "For me to reach that goal I need to fight the best, and that's what I do—I fight the best."
For his upcoming fight at UFC Fight Night 26 airing on Fox Sports 1, Rua drew UFC bad boy Chael Sonnen in the main event bout. Sonnen is not only a tough matchup for virtually anybody in the UFC, but he's also got a wicked tongue that lashes out at almost every opponent who signs to face him in the Octagon.
There have been a few rare occasions where Sonnen has nothing much to say about a fighter he's facing, and this happens to be one of them. While "The American Gangster" from West Linn, Oregon, has had plenty to say about some of Shogun's former teammates, and even his home country of Brazil, the former Pride champion seems above reproach when it comes to typical trash talk.
Sonnen has used words like "respect" and "honor" to describe his bout with Rua, but the feelings are not reciprocated by the man he'll face in the Octagon on August 17.
Shogun's heard plenty of Sonnen's chatter over the years, and even if the verbal venom wasn't spewed directly at him, he's caught some shrapnel, because when you mess with one of Rua's friends, it's as good as messing with him.
"I never really appreciated the way Chael treats people in Brazil, and the way he treated Anderson (Silva) and Wanderlei (Silva). Sonnen can say good things about me, but that's not going to be the thing that makes me change my mind about him," Rua said. "Chael is a great fighter, but I don't approve of what he's done with a couple of opponents, I don't agree with that.
"I feel personally attacked when Chael talks about Wanderlei. That's what really gets to me."
For most of his career, Shogun called Wanderlei Silva his teammate and mentor, and that's not a bond that's easily broken even if they don't train together any longer. Shogun isn't a paid assassin sent to avenge his friend, but for a fighter who is known for never holding much of a grudge against an opponent, Sonnen has managed to land on his bad side.
Shogun seems motivated by a personal vendetta this time around, and that may make him an even scarier fighter than the one who's already knocked out 18 past opponents.
If Shogun has his way, Sonnen might just be No. 19.
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and all quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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