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Even Shogun is a ‘little surprised’ to find out he’s in contention for a title shot

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The former UFC light heavyweight champion spoke to the media ahead of his headline bout against Anthony Smith in Hamburg, and gave his thoughts about Daniel Cormier suggesting Shogun could fight for the belt.

Twice in his sixteen year career Mauricio Rua has been on top of the MMA world. The first, back in 2005, when he stormed through the PRIDE middleweight Grand Prix – defeating Rampage Jackson, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Alistair Overeem, and Ricardo Arona in the space of just four months. The second, on May 8th, 2010, when Rua took on then UFC champion Lyoto Machida for the second time, knocking him out in the first round to win the light heavyweight title.

Since those halcyon days, however, success has been a much less consistent commodity. Rua is just 6-6 in the 7 years since losing his belt to MMA great-turned-pariah Jon Jones, while having racked up the first three KO losses of his career (Jones included). Injury plagued and now inching out of his mid-30s, it was something of a shock to hear current 205 & 265 double-champ Daniel Cormier suddenly talking about Rua has a potential title challenger.

“I think (Rua) might be on a longer win streak than Gustafsson if he wins his next fight, so why doesn’t he deserve it?” Cormier said during an interview on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show. “He’s a former champion. He would be in the running, too.”

And that is technically true. Despite a rough few years, Rua has built himself a three-fight win streak, stretching back to 2015. He’s still been hampered by injuries, but a lack of fresh title challengers and wins over Lil’ Nog, Corey Anderson, and Gian Villante have meant he’s locked down a spot in the top ten of the UFC’s divisional rankings.

Nonetheless, Cormier’s title talk caught even Rua off guard, as he admitted in a recent media scrum ahead of his UFC Hamburg bout against Anthony Smith.

“I got very happy with DC’s comments,” Rua said, “Obviously, it’s everybody’s goal to fight for the belt and I would be very happy if I get this chance. But, that’s all useless until I fight on Sunday. So, I don’t think about that right now. All my thoughts are on my fight with Anthony Smith. Hopefully, thank God, I get the win, then after the fight I’ll think about it and see what happens.”

“Yes, I got a little surprised,” he added, when pressed. “I wasn’t expecting that to happen. But, I know that with every fight and every win I get closer to the belt.”

Along with the potential for a bout against Cormier, Shogun gave his thoughts to the UFC 226 post-fight theatrics between Cormier and probable heavyweight title challenger – and former UFC heavyweight champion – WWE superstar Brock Lesnar. While many fans, fighters, and pundits were less than pleased by the pro-wrestling style promos the two men cut in the cage, Rua seems to see them as only a good thing.

“No, actually I like it,” Rua said of the back-and-forth between DC and Lesnar at UFC 226. “I think it’s nice because it helps to create interest. It helps to put some spice in the fights and bring attention, bring media, which is important to the sport in the end. I think there has always been some element of this sort in the game and it’s important. There has to be this kind of thing to promote and add interest.”

Rua will get his chance to keep his title hopes alive this Sunday, July 22nd in Hamburg, Germany. There he’ll take on Anthony ‘Lionheart’ Smith in the headlining bout of the 13-fight UFC card. The event includes another battle between top ranked light heavyweights, as Corey Anderson takes on former contender Glover Teixeira in the co-main event. Stay tuned to Bloody Elbow for more news and updates.