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Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira Officially Retires From MMA, Accepts UFC Position as “Athlete Relations Ambassador”

(No, Antonio, we salute YOU. via Getty.)

Following a heartbreaking two-year stretch that saw him submitted by Fabricio Werdum, KO’d by Roy Nelson, and outpointed by Stefan Struve, Antonio “Minotauro” Nogueira has finally decided to end to his legendary 17 year career.

Said the man himself (via MMAFighting):

I have mixed feelings. I’m sad for leaving but happy with this new job in the UFC. I remember when I met [Junior dos Santos], he was brave in training, and before his UFC debut against the current champion Fabricio Werdum, I told Dana White to watch for his uppercut. And that’s how he beat him. I have good eyes for new talent, and I will look for new talents in this new generation.

To recap Big Nog’s career would be both incredibly tasking and redundant — from the truck accident that nearly took his life as a child to his now infamous fights with the like of Fedor Emelianenko, Mirko Cro Cop, and Josh Barnett in Pride, right up to the moment he captured the UFC interim heavyweight title over Tim Sylvia (the absolutely beautiful misdirection displayed in that finishing sequence will forever be a standout moment in my mental MMA bank), Nogueira rose to become on of the most respected, the most feared, and simultaneously most beloved figures in the sport. He’s recovered from more haymakers, head kicks, thrashings, and supposedly career-ending injuries than any fight has or ever will recover from, and he did it with complete, unquestioning resolve.

Remember when Big Nog kicked Dave Herman’s ass with a broken rib? Or when he got piledriven by big, bad, 150-pound-weight-advantage Bob Sapp, only to submit him the second round? How bout his brawl with Randy Couture at UFC 102, a classic in the “Old Dudes Just Throwin’ Down” canon? That was 6 years ago, you guys! These are the kind of moments that will forever define the career of a man whose face belongs on the Mount Rushmore of MMA, or hell, just the regular old Mount Rushmore.

In a sport that has seen countless, redefining changes — from to the entrance of smaller and women’s weight classes to actual, corporate sponsorships — Antonio Nogueira has arguably been its greatest constant. But there’s no arguing that his best days as a fighter are behind him, which is why it’s great to hear that he’s retiring before anymore damage can be done. What left does he have to prove, after all?

I started fighting in 1999, and was at the top 3 of the division until 2008. It’s an entire life. I have constant pain, fought guys heavier than this 265 pounds limit today. I love the training routine but I have to be 100 percent to fight.

I’ve always had a passion to follow the development of new athletes and that’s what I intend to continue doing. I want to help further the spread of MMA around the world and give my contribution to the emergence and development of young talent. I appreciate all the confidence that Dana White, Lorenzo Fertitta and Frank Fertitta have in me, and I believe we will reach big results together. I know that I can, and will, contribute much to the growth of our sport outside of the Octagon.

It’s hard to imagine Big Nog being anything less than stellar in his new position, so pay your respects to the man’s epic career (and share your favorite Big Nog moments) in the comments section.

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