Ten Years in, Is Murilo "Ninja" Rua Now Fighting for Relevancy?

Erik FontanezCorrespondent IJanuary 14, 2010

Mixed martial arts journeyman Murilo “Ninja” Rua’s career has been nothing short of eventful.

According to a release sent to me by my colleague MMA-Examiner">Phil Lanides, the former Pride Fighting Championship standout, and elder sibling of UFC contender Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, is set to return to action this Spring.

Rua’s opponent will be Hawaiian native Falaniko Vitale, and the bout will be under the banner of Shine Fights III. No date for the bout has been set, as of yet.

With 18 wins to his credit, compared to 10 losses, the Brazilian has obviously been on the winning side of a majority of his bouts, but are 10 years competing combined with recent inconsistencies forcing Rua to fight for relevancy?

Up until this point, Rua’s career has included a handful of fan-pleasing fights that will go down as some of the best the sport has ever witnessed.

Win or lose, Ninja has personally made sure that no one in the vicinity of the cage or ring is left with a feeling of being unimpressed with poor performances.

Having fought some of the toughest and most well-rounded fighters in the world, Rua reeled off a seven-fight unbeaten streak before experiencing his first loss to Dan Henderson via split decision.

Instead of bitter defeat, the Henderson fight could be tallied up as a great learning experience since, at the time, Ninja was merely at the tender age of 21.

This, however, was not the case.

Over the next 11 fights, Rua went a dismal 5-6, and lost to some of the sport’s best light-heavyweights at the time. Not all his fights, however, were indicative of his record.

One fight that stands out during this slump is Ninja’s battle with former UFC light-heavyweight champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson at Pride 29: Fists of Fire.

Though Rua lost the fight by split decision, the Chute Boxe-trained fighter stood with Jackson and traded shots with the Tennessee-raised wrestler for three rounds, refusing to stand down at any point.

The judges in Japan forwarded their decisions to the announcer. To the surprise of nearly everyone in attendance, including play-by-play announcers Mauro Renallo and Bas Rutten, Jackson was considered the victor.

Judging by the amount of control and strikes Rua had over Jackson, the loss could have easily been considered a win for Rua.

Following that fight, Rua lost to Paulo Filho and Denis Kang, then left PrideFC for Cage Rage until settling down in the now-defunct EliteXC.

The move to EliteXC was during a camp transition where Rua left the famed Chute Boxe gym. With his bother Shogun, and teammate Andre “Dida” Amade, the trio formed a new team called Universidade da Luta, or in English, Fight University.

With a new gym and renewed focus, a ray of hope shined on Rua, as he was able to defeat Joey Villasenor for the EliteXC middleweight title.

This would be the first and only championship held by Rua in mixed martial arts. His reign did not last long, as Rua was defeated in embarrassing fashion by Robbie Lawler in his very next fight.

Since his “one and done” era as champion, Rua has gone 4-2, and even returned to fighting at 205 pounds.

The transition from PrideFC to EliteXC, and now to a show with Shine Fights, speaks volumes about the level of competition Rua is able to compete with.

With recent losses to Benji Radach and Riki Fukuda, it is sad to see such a phenomenal talent go from top contender to mid-level fighter. The hope is that Ninja will rediscover his stride at light-heavyweight and, one day, be considered in the top 10 of his weight class.

Now, with a bout pending with Falaniko Vitale, Murilo Rua has a chance to continue a win streak and turn doubters into believers who can look at him as a definitive threat in mixed martial arts.

It’s been a long decade for Rua, but the next one can start out on a high note if he can beat Vitale this spring.