Was Mauricio "Shogun" Rua really too scared to fight up-and-coming phenom Glover Teixeira in the main event of the "UFC on Fox 4" card, or did the Brazilian simply make a tactical, well-calculated business decision by agreeing to take on Brandon Vera instead?
UFC President Dana White's comments in a recent interview with Ariel Helwani hinted that "Shogun" feared Teixeira.
"Dude, nobody wants to fight this guy," White said, referring to Teixeira, the dangerous brawler who hasn't lost since 2005 and tallied 11 of his 19 victories by knockout. "We're trying to match this guy up with someone, but [Shogun] didn't mind fighting Brandon Vera, so he's fighting Brandon Vera."
In my view, Shogun isn't scared to fight Teixeira, it's just that a victory over him wouldn't do much for his career. Vera, on the other hand, is a UFC veteran who is a much more well-known name, even if he's not necesarily a better fighter than Teixeira.
"Shogun" has stepped in against the "who's who" of the sport, squaring off against the likes of Dan Henderson, Jon Jones, Chuck Liddell, Lyoto Machida and Alistair Overeem, so it would be silly for anyone to say he's scared to go up against Teixeira.
The best way to build up an up-and-coming fighter is by putting them in against an aging legend on the downside of their career, and that seems to be what the UFC was trying to do in this case.
We've seen similar tactics in the past, like when the UFC built up Rich Franklin's name by matching him up with Ken Shamrock, and we'll see it in the near future when 22-year-old standout Rory MacDonald takes on B.J. Penn.
"Shogun," at this point in his career, isn't a gatekeeper, and doesn't want to be a stepping stone for an up-and-coming prospect.
"I don't want to sound like I'm disrespecting Shogun, because I'm not," White added. "I'm just telling the truth. It's verbatim what his people said when we talked to them. You know me. I tell it like it is. If you don't want that out in public, then don't say it to me on the phone, because I'm going to say what was said. Shogun's a warrior. The guy's fought everybody from PRIDE to the UFC. His last fight with Dan Henderson was awesome. It is what it is."
As for White putting these comments out in public, I don't see it as a knock against Rua.
MMA online forums have been blowing up with comments from fans miffed at the matchup between the No. 4-ranked Rua against No. 27 Vera, so White needed to explain and defend why those fighters will be squaring off against each other.
The UFC seems to frown on fighters "picking their opponents," as they want guys who will take on anybody the league asks them to. In this case, the league deserves credit for still granting "Shogun" a spot in the main event, and giving him the opponent he asked for.
Eric Holden is a lifelong UFC fan and supporter of the sport of mixed martial arts. Follow him on Twitter @ericholden.
- Martial Arts
- Sports & Recreation
- Brandon Vera
- Glover Teixeira
- Dana White