Former light heavyweight champion Mauricio Rua knows better than to think too far ahead of the task ahead – and that's his meeting with Anthony Smith at UFC Fight Night 134.
Rua has also learned that some things are ultimately beyond his control. So, if you ask "Shogun" (25-10 MMA, 9-8 UFC) if a title fight with doubles champion Daniel Cormier on Sunday will be followed by a win over Smith (28-14 MMA, 5-3 UFC), Rua (19659002) But if the question is whether "Shogun" as the case may be, deserves the opportunity to reclaim the UFC 205-pound belt? Well, that's a little different.
"I think if I win this fight well, I deserve to fight for the belt," Rua told MMAjunkie. "For my career, for my story, those who know me from the beginning know that I deserve this opportunity."
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And that's about as categorical as Rua's going to talk about it while he thinks ahead.
"But that's beyond my control," Rua said. "It's not something I choose, Cormier, who mentions my name, makes it a lot easier, but I can not think about it when I have a tough opponent like Anthony Smith in front of me."
Having talked about past with Rua, know this kind of the current mentality is not atypical. You will not see the 36-year-old Brazilian making bold claims or bringing things to life. And while that may be part of his personality, it could also have something to do with adaptation.
You'd think a 16-year-old MMA veteran like Rua learned a thing or two about situations that do not work the way he originally planned. A typical example is the fight he faces in the Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg.
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Rua, who had not fought since a TKO victory against Gian Villante in March 2017, should have returned to Japan last September, but his knee did not last. "Shogun" performed well against Volkan Özdemir – against a newly crowned defending champion against Cormier. This was canceled due to Özdemir's legal problems in the US
The game was rebooked two months later, but then another twist came: Özdemir was transferred to a UFC 227 meeting with Alexander Gustafsson. And then, Rua, who ranked No. 13 in the latest USA TODAY Sports / MMAjunkie MMA Heavyweight Ranking, went from hitting No. 7 Özdemir to meeting a newcomer in the 205-pound division at Smith's long-term middleweight division.
But "Shogun" says he was not disappointed when Smith – a name that might not strengthen his title case as strongly as Özdemirs – was offered to him.
"I'm thinking about winning," Rua said. "I'm thinking of winning this fight, which is a tough one, and if I win against anyone, I'm closer to the belt, that's what I think."