Abu Dhabi: Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) heavyweight fighter Roy “Big Country” Nelson is set to enter the octagon in the UAE this Friday in the main event of UFC Fight Night in Abu Dhabi.
Nelson, winner of the UFC’s ultimate fighter tournament, has become a veteran of the company’s heavyweight division, with an impressive 11 fights under his belt. But this week he will be up against Antonio Nogueira, who is a mixed martial arts (MMA) legend after 20 years of fighting.
Friday’s five-round bout is the biggest of ten fights across six weight classes being held at the du Arena on Yas Island. It will be the first UFC event in the UAE since the UFC 112 fights attracted more than 11,000 fans to Yas Island in 2010.
Ahead of fighting in Abu Dhabi for the first time, Nelson said: “Fighting here I think is nice, it’s something I can give back because I started from jiu-jitsu and you know the ADCC [Abu Dhabi Combat Club] and that’s kind of the big push that got me into MMA.”
For Nelson, Nogueira’s legendary stature is something he looks up to. “I’ve always wanted to fight the best guys in the world and for me to fight Big Nog [Noguiera], you know you’re fighting a legend. Just fighting guys you look up to when you start fighting, I’m always in awe.
“But it doesn’t matter if you’re fighting a legend or a new guy off the street, you just want to go out there and give 110 per cent.”
Nelson, who is known for his knockout power, says his strategy for the fight is to “just be better at everything, have better stand up, and if we hit the ground then be better at the ground game.”
When asked about his clinical finishing record, with all six of his UFC wins coming by way of knockout, four of which went on to earn knockout of the night bonus awards, Nelson said: “I try not to knock people out, it just happens, it’s one of those things that just works out in my favour.”
Meanwhile, Nogueira has set up camp in Dubai and begun training for Friday’s fight. Nogueira is the first UFC heavyweight fighter to set up camp in the UAE, marking the Emirates’ emergence as a leading platform for the sport.
“I’m fight ready,” Nogueira said. “And training with these excellent facilities in Dubai can only give me even more of an edge over that bearded redneck. He’s going down, I promise you that.”
Nogueira is taller than Nelson, with longer reach and more experience, but the American is heavier and outranks him, at ninth in the world to Nogueira’s 11th.
Nogueira Team Dubai academy manager Rafael Haubert said :“Nogueira’s a guy who, every time you start counting him out, he shows he’s got skills and he knocks the guy out. Can he knock out Roy Nelson? We’ll see. Roy Nelson is known for his durability and a huge overhand right.”
Nogueira and Nelson weigh in on Thursday.
— The writer is an intern with Gulf News