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’Athletes need to fight, they can’t sit around’ - Nogueiras turn to online training amid pandemic

Team Nogueira has resorted to giving online lessons while Brazilian government tries to make a decision on how to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

UFC Fight Night Santos vs Anders: Open Workouts Photo by Bruna Prado/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC

Like many combat sports gyms and facilities around the world right now, Team Nogueira has closed its doors in order to try to stop the coronavirus from spreading.

And like several other notable MMA camps, (including Rio de Janeiro’s Nova Uniao) Team Nogueira has been looking for creative solutions in order to keep its business afloat. Even if athletes can’t attend to their training sessions in person.

In an interview with Combate, UFC light heavyweight Antonio Rogerio Nogueira explained how he and his brother, former UFC interim heavyweight champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, are making use of the internet in order to deal with the situation in such unusual and dangerous times.

“We’ve been closed for over 10 days, when Rio’s governor said we had to close the gyms. We were planning to do that because teachers were worried, they live with their parents and everyone was worried. It’s complicated, lots of people need to take the bus or the train (to get to the gym), so that was what needed to be done. Then people started training at home. This way, everyone is safe and we can wait to see when something changes.”

Although Nogueira understands the coronavirus pandemic is a matter of public health, ‘Lil’ Nog’ still acknowledges that fighters and businessmen like himself will suffer from not being able to keep their gyms open. Still, he’s planning to obey whatever orders the government decides to establish.

“Some people went home. There are two lines of thought when it comes to this matter. You have business who want to work and then there are people who want to stay home and avoid social contact with other people. It’s even hard for a ruler, who holds the pen, to make such decisions like this. Athletes need to fight, they can’t sit around. That’s why I think the ones who are not from Rio will return to their homes, because here they need to pay rent, buy food, etc. Some cards have already been cancelled. Francisco de Assis was supposed to fight in Russia in April, but won’t anymore. I think that’s the hardest thing for our authorities: do they keep everyone at home or do they allow people work? It’s hard for one to decide. We’re waiting on a decision.”

While he waits, the UFC light heavyweight is trying to stay in shape for his trilogy fight against Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua—which is expected to take place in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on May 9. Apparently, it hasn’t been easy to prepare for that fight under these difficult conditions, but he’s working to soldier through.

“It’s been complicated to keep up a pace. I’ve been training at home in any possible way. Still, it’s not the same. People feel the difference, because it’s when you train that you start gaining confidence for a fight, when you start reaching your goals. Now we are doing what we can, under the possible conditions. This isn’t happening only to us, but to everyone. You can do a lot at home when it comes to preparing for a fight, especially in the physical department, but for sparring, contact, a real fight-like situation, there is not much you can do. That really hinders you. We are trying to do what we can without having to spar.”

As of the writing of this piece, Brazil has 299 confirmed deaths by COVID-19 and over 7,000 confirmed cases, with most deaths being in the state of Sao Paulo, followed by the state of Rio de Janeiro. Unless there’s a dramatic change for the better in the spread of the pandemic in Brazil, it seems unlikely that UFC 250 will go forward. Or if it does, what exactly the fight card will look like, and where it will be.