After submitting Kiyoshi Tamura at PRIDE 31, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira submitted Zulu Zuluzhino in the May 5th PRIDE Open Weight Grand Prix 2006 Opening Round, held at the Osaka Dome, and advanced to the Second Round.

Nogueira has come back stronger since having surgery on both elbows and is now on a mission to win the Open Weight Grand Prix and take back the title of Heavyweight Champion.




Pride Fighting Championships: You've had two fights since your surgery on both elbows. How do you feel about your return?
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira: I feel like I have completely recovered. I was injured in the 2004 Grand Prix and after that, I continued to fight without getting any treatment. Now I'm 100%, though, and I plan on winning all the way through the Final Round.
Pride: Both of your last two fights ended quickly. Does the thought of a drawn-out fight worry you?
Nogueira: The Tamura fight just happened to end quickly but that was never my intention. I seized on a good chance as the fight went along and all I was thinking about was taking it to the finish. That just happened to be at an early time in the match. I train very hard with my team, sparring with six guys, one after another, for five minutes each. So, I don't think it would have been a problem at all if those two fights had gone longer.
Pride: Do you think you are 100% ready to win the Grand Prix, technically, physically and mentally?
Nogueira: I believe that I always have to improve myself, so I'm never satisfied with my current condition. If there were anything about me that is lacking right now, it would probably be the physical aspect. I will be physically 100% by the time of the Final Round, though.
Pride: By "physical", do you mean weight training?
Nogueira: Weight training is also important but you have to run a lot, like 50, 100, 150, 200 meters on the beach, not just using machines. I also train while wearing a vest with about 15kg of weights in it and using a hammer to beat rubber tires. That's really hard but I want to make my training even harder from now on.
Pride: Many fighters say that luck is also necessary to win a tournament. Do you feel the same way?
Nogueira: Yes, I think that's true, of course. Looking back on my own past fights, I think luck was on my side. To win the Grand Prix, you need to be physically, technically and mentally prepared, and you need luck. If you don't have all of those, you can't win. I want to become the kind of fighter that has all of those things.
Pride: Lady luck seems to be with you now. [Note: Nogueira's girlfriend is sitting beside him.]
Nogueira: (laughing) Yes, that's right. She is very important to me. We live together now and she also does merchandising and handles the press for me in Brazil. She is extremely important to me when I come to Japan and need to focus on my fight.
Pride: Do you have any wedding plans?
Nogueira: In the future. This year, though, winning this Grand Prix is very important to me as a professional fighter and I need to concentrate on the Grand Prix and become the Champion first. I want to do my best this year so everyone will call me the best in the world again. I will think about marriage once my life as a professional fighter has calmed down.
In my life as a fighter, every day is very busy. I have to fight and I have to train. I also have to go to many countries to give seminars. I don't have much time to spend at home. In that case, I wouldn't be able to spend time with my family. If I can't calm down, it will probably be difficult to have a family. I have a daughter in Brazil but I've been busy lately and I've only seen her about once in the past two months. Once my life calms down more though, I want to have my own family and lead a slow life.