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Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Rua welcomes Strikeforce foes to the fold

By Chuck Mindenhall

NEWARK -- Count UFC light heavyweight champion Mauricio Rua among those who are jazzed about the influx of new faces soon to make their way into the Octagon.


While having lunch at a Brazilian restaurant in Newark on Monday, just five days before his first UFC title defense against Jon Jones, "Shogun" applauded Zuffa's landscape-changing splurge and said he was happy that his division -- just as the others -- would soon be crowded with talent.

"I think it's pretty cool, because now the UFC can get the best guys in all weight classes and match them up and have them fight," Rua told ESPN.com. "I think it's a really cool thing. And I think the acquisition of the heavyweight division is going to be very nice and very strong, and that's going to be fun. Now the UFC has many top fighters. Congratulations to Zuffa."

As he gets ready to face the freelance-striking Jones -- who has seemed completely invulnerable to punishment in seven UFC fights while dishing out plenty -- Rua also chimed in on another issue that would further open things up. That is, teammates fighting teammates.

"We are professional fighters, so I think we've got to fight," he said. "This is our job, so you have to fight. It's what you do for a living. Some people keep saying, 'I won't fight this guy, he's my friend,' or this or that, but I don't think that's fair. I think training is pretty close to the real thing and we train hard and it's our profession, so you have to fight and do your job."

Rua himself fought a teammate in Evangelista Santos in 2003 while still training out of Chute Boxe. That was a Meca World Vale Tudo event where things weren't nearly as civil. Today he and his brothers, Murilo "Ninja" Rua and Marcos "Shaolin" Rua, operate Universidade da Luta in Curitiba, Brazil, as a family.

Unlike Alistair Overeem, who needed a nanosecond to declare he'd fight Valentijn when pressed, Shogun says he would never fight one of his siblings. Just about everyone else, though, is on limits -- including his friends. Unless that friend is like a brother. And that is rarer than people like to think, he says.

"I think friends in life, if you're really talking about friends, you can count on your fingers," Rua said. "You're not going to have that many friends. So people are your friends, but it's not like they are your best friends, so you have to fight them, it's your job.

"The only guy I would not fight is Wanderlei Silva because I really have a special relationship with him that goes back a long way. Other than that, they are not your best friends and even though they are your friends, you have to do your job."