August 4, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Shogun Rua hits Brandon Vera in the head during the light heavyweight match at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE
To obtain a strong legacy in combat sports, one must undergo tedious training, depletion, and bodily harm. A fighter basically takes his future quality of life into his own hands when they embark on such a journey. Few fighters have done so to the extent that Mauricio Rua has. The man has put his body through such struggles and endeavors that few men would even comprehend. The fact of the matter is, the damage Rua has taken will likely rear it's ugly head at an age when most men shouldn't even have to worry about their health.
Before I go any deeper, I would like to preface this by saying that this is not a call for Shogun to retire. He has done enough in the sport to dictate when he wants to leave it. However, the hurt he is bound to put his body through in the future is nothing to overlook, and he should at least consider the thought of not going through it.
Shogun has already logged a fair bit more years in fighting than most would expect for a high level fighter. He has been fighting some of the very best since he was only 20 or 21 years old. Now, he is 30 years old, and his fighting style was never one to prioritize safety. Rua has undoubtedly endured concussion after vicious concussion, to an extent that is unmeasurable at this point. His body has gone through bitter struggles no man can be asked to go through. What is the result? A man who is near an age where he should be in peak condition, clearly aged beyond his years.
Just look at him. His body isn't that of a 30 year old man. Not one who trains in such a demanding sport. But MMA is ruthless, and now we have to see one painful result. The Shogun that fought Brandon Vera at UFC on Fox 4 was not the Shogun that fought Quinton Jackson in 2005. Hell, the Shogun that fought Brandon Vera at UFC on Fox 4 was not the same Shogun that fought Dan Henderson just months ago. The damage done to his body from fight to fight becomes exponentially worse as he has to keep enduring it. It isn't hard to notice, but it is hard to watch.
Watching Mauricio Rua fight Brandon Vera was concerning to me. Rua was visually spent before the end of the first round. It appeared that carrying his own weight was labored. Though he ended up winning impressively, the overall performance was difficult for me to watch. The Shogun of old would've destroyed Brandon Vera, wouldn't have let it get past the first round. Even if he did, the Shogun of old wouldn't have been so tired after the first round. This fight wouldn't have been competitive, if Shogun had the body of most athletes his age. Instead, we had to watch Rua engage in a battle of wills with a fighter far below his skill level.
His style used to bring together a devastating combination of speed and pressure. Last night, it was clear that he wanted to bring that to this fight, but he just physically couldn't. The body language he displayed was of grief and frustration, something I never thought I'd have to see from him in a bout with a fighter like Vera. It was a clear image of how far he has come since his glory days.
But what could we expect from this Brazilian pugilist? As I stated before, his fighting style has never lent itself to safety. The damage he's taken in clashes with Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Dan Henderson have put more trauma on his young body than some fighters may endure in a career. Training with the Chute Boxe Academy is notoriously strenuous, and he did it for years. Shogun has already had 3 knee surgeries before he even turned 30 years old. Throughout his career, he has sacrificed health for a gritty glory that few can ever obtain. Tack onto that the years Jon Jones may have taken from him in their one-sided affair, and this man may seriously have a dull future and poor quality of life because of what he's done for fans like you and I.
Rua has already claimed everything in this sport that he could. The man has beaten some of the best known names in the sport, and done so viciously. He is internationally known, and his name is revered. Shogun has long been a fan favorite, and has always been a proud man. Even so, he must recognize that the trials he has endured are weighing heavily on him. He may have been one of the truest warriors to ever step into a ring or cage. What he's done in this sport is awe inspiring, and he has no more to prove. I can't say I want him to retire, but I will say that I want him to have a nice life after fighting. He walks, or may very well have crossed, a fine line.
What Mauricio Rua needs is a big paycheck, a spot in a hall of fame somewhere, and a break. He owes himself the latter.