Arona Says He Rejected Strikeforce Offer and That He’s Targeting an Early 2012 Return…For Real

Ricardo Arona

(Arona’s finally ready to put down the surfboard.)

Ricardo Arona has been pledging a return to action pretty much every year since his last bout in 2009 against Marvin Eastman at Bitetti Combat 4, but has failed to deliver on the promise. According to the former Rings middleweight champion and former PRIDE standout, by “this year” he actually meant “next year,” meaning 2012. If the world doesn’t end like some whack jobs believe it will, Arona says we can expect to see him make his triumphant return.

In an interview he did recently with Globo, “The Brazilian Tiger” says the reason he’s had to push back his MMA return was that life got in the way, but that he’s had no shortage of offers from promotions.

“I went back to prepare myself physically and to finish building a training center in my house in Niterói. It’s pretty big and full. I want to return early next year. First I want to be ready to compete in anything, God willing,” Arona explains. “My goal is to do that, no doubt. I received an invitation from Strikeforce and several national events, but did not close anything. I’m hoping to be ready to return.”

I bet he’s kicking himself for not taking the Strikeforce offer now that the promotion is owned by Zuffa. Although he didn’t mention if he’s had any further discussions with the UFC, tou would think that would be something he’d mention if it was happening. Whatever the case, Arona pegs his return date somewhere around February or March if all goes well with the final preparations of his gym.

“My Training Center is almost ready. It has a huge mat space. I put a ring, functional training room, weight room, physiotherapy room. The place is great. It should be ready in no more than two months and after that with three months of training I’ll be ready for everything,” he estimates. “I will form a team. After putting the team together we will structure it with good coaches. But I still have no names of teachers. I will invite a bunch of coaches to join the team.”

If you had a keen eye during the UFC 134 broadcast, you may have noticed that Arona was part of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira‘s entourage during his walkout for his fight with Brendan Schaub. A longtime friend of “Minotauro” since before both of them fought for PRIDE, he says that Nogueira’s bout was the one he looked forward to most on the card.

“Minotauro was 100% ready for the UFC Rio show and he entered the event with lots of preparation,” he says. “It was the most anticipated fight for me.”

Injecting Arona into the UFC’s light heavyweight division could add some intrigue, or if he isn’t prepared because of years of inactivity, it could mean the end of another PRIDE star’s career. Let’s hope it’s the former.