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UFC Fight Night 39: Minotauro Nogueira's Legacy Is Indestructible

Mixed martial arts fighter Minotauro Nogueira, from Brazil, poses during the UFC 153 weigh-in event in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday Oct. 12, 2012. The Ultimate Fighting Championship organization is holding fighting events on Saturday. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
Felipe Dana
Matthew RyderFeatured ColumnistApril 11, 2014

On a steamy night in Abu Dhabi, Minotauro Nogueira tried to eat a Roy Nelson right hand. Many before him have as well; most have been roughly as successful as Nogueira was.

That isn't to say that the legend couldn't eat the punch at all, ending up stiffened on the canvas while his portly foe celebrated another violent victory.

There's no shame in losing to Nelson, particularly in a way that's become his patent in recent years. There's even less shame in it when you're a man like Nogueira, who has built a legacy that will outlive his career in the cage and, should MMA continue to expand, perhaps his time on this planet.

Though he's clearly lost a step and this was a fight he desperately needed if he was going to make his last stand, it's likely time to accept two things: He isn't going to be playing this game much longer, and that's OK because the sport had him while he was at his best.

The sport had him when he was routing the generation of legends that came before him, choking out Gary Goodridge and Enson Inoue in PRIDE.

The sport had him when he was snapping Bob Sapp's arm at a time when people still felt like that kind of meant something.

The sport had him in his trilogy with fellow icon Fedor Emelianenko, a man still responsible for a quarter of Nogueira's losses even now, a decade after they last met.

The sport even had him when it was entering a new era, one where he finished Tim Sylvia out of nowhere to become a UFC champion and later put on one of the best three-round fights in heavyweight history against Randy Couture.

The sport had him when it mattered. It still has him, and only he knows how much longer that will be the case, but he gave so much during that stretch that the years since have basically been gravy.

The calls are surely coming for him to retire, for him to give up the sport that has defined him as a man and allowed him to create that legacy that anyone would be proud of. Unfortunately, if you're him, it's not that easy to give up on, and if you're anyone else, it's not your place to make him do so.

He's a grown man, and he'll make his choices, just as he's chosen to get up so many times when he was knocked down, to fight on so many times when the world thought he couldn't throw another punch.

Minotauro Nogueira has slowed. He's not the same man that he was in his physical prime, because he devoted that prime to the type of fearless combat not often displayed since the days of men conquering entire segments of the globe. For a long time, MMA thought him indestructible, but his late career is proving otherwise.

His legacy, though? That's as indestructible as any the sport will ever know and, regardless of his next step, mixed martial arts is better for that.

 

Follow me on Twitter @matthewjryder!

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