Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira officially retires today. He is 39. The only man to ever hold titles in both the UFC and PRIDE FC announced today that after a 16 year career (and notable pressure from the UFC itself) he has finally decided to hang up his gloves. He leaves the sport on a 3 fight losing streak but boasts an overall record of 34-10-1-1.
After winning the 2000 RINGS: KING OF KINGS tournament, Nogueira made his way to PRIDE FC. He instantly became a sensation as his combination of world-class jiu-jitsu and boxing prowess made him the prototype for a new breed of heavyweight mixed martial artist. In his prime, his guard was the thing of legend, one he used to defeat then PRIDE Grand Prix Champion Mark Coleman. Nogueira would officially become the first ever PRIDE FC Heavyweight Champion when he dismantled Heath Herring in November of 2001.
He held the title for several years until he met his legendary rival, Fedor. During his reign as champion, Nogueira managed to defeat the then near-400 lb Bob Sapp in a fight that is still talked of in awe and the future multiple-time K1 Grand Prix Champion Semmy Schilt, as well as Dan Henderson and Enson Inoue amongst others. His career wins are a who’s who of the heavyweight division:
As PRIDE FC died, Nogueira made the move to the UFC where he won the Interim Title by tapping out Tim Sylvia with a guillotine at UFC 81 (a show now known more as the debut of Brock Lesnar in the UFC). However, even then – in 2008 – it was clear that Nogueira’s best days were behind him. He would begin to lose more than he lost throughout his UFC tenure, though he did manage impressive victories over Randy Couture and young fighters Brendan Schaub and Dave Herman. The later two both occurred in his hometown of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and were actually his first two fights ever Rio. He counts them amongst his career highlights.
Nogueira will take an office position within the UFC, as a Brazilian ambassador of some sort.