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What Now for Shogun?

What Now for Shogun?

I’d imagine most readers of this site read the names “Shogun” and “Ninja,” and immediately think of the two MMA-fighting brothers from Brazil. They’ve definitely given us a lot of great memories over the years, and one of them, Maurício Rua, fought in the main event last weekend at UFC on FS1.

But, maybe you’re also a fan of those stories which inspired their nicknames — and the great movie and TV epics which bring them to life. So, maybe a little story about them won’t be too out of place here.

Back in 1980, the sagas of the samurai were commanding screens large and small, in both East and West.

Akira Kurosawa, still recognized by many as the greatest film director of all time, offered some advice to the writers behind the US TV hit mini-series “Shogun,” shortly after his samurai epic Kagemusha won the Cannes Film Festival. As it turns out, Kurosawa had read a translation of the novel which inspired “Shogun,” and turned down the opportunity to direct its screen adaptation.

“So many things were so impossible and inconceivable in that period, that my reaction was I could not make a film of it,” Kurosawa said. “My advice to the author: study Japanese history a little harder.

Maybe that’s relevant today, as MMA’s own “Shogun,” Maurício “Shogun” Rua, rebounds from Saturday’s loss. His brother, Murilo “Ninja” Rua, says he saw it coming. Maybe we can tell what’s coming next, by looking back.

“Shogun” Rua enjoyed one of the greatest rises up the MMA ranks of the early 2000’s. Victories like the PRIDE Middleweight Grand Prix tournament prompted MMA outlets named like Sherdog named him fighter of the year in 2005. In eighteen bouts, his record had only two blemishes: a fluke injury against Mark Coleman, and a submission loss to the veteran Renato “Babalu” Sobral. A victory against Alistair Overeem left an exclamation point on his early career.
Then – it all fell apart. The injuries came; and a disastrous 2007 showing against Forrest Griffen. (He’s reportedly endured three surgeries to his knee.)

Still, he avenged that loss to Griffen quickly, and the Coleman loss as well. Along the way, Rua finally struck UFC gold in defeating Lyoto Machida in 2010, but Jon Jones put an end to that.

Last year, having already split from longtime trainer Rafeal Cordeiro, Rua’s camp was abandoned by his brother Murilo. Murilo expressed his concerns earlier this week to the media, as well.

Word around town is that Rua is going the route of fighters who discard the people who brought him his original success. Talk of a return for the BJ Penn, for example, has a lot of us old fans concerned. Last month I asked, what’s the point if he’s not fighting to his original potential?

So, what’s next for Rua?

Maybe, more success. A lot more.

Amazingly, he’s only 31 years old and Saturday’s loss represents the only time he’s lost two straight bouts.

There’s plenty of time for Rua to look at the examples of fighters who failed to keep with a winning formula. Plenty of time to heal injuries if necessary, go back to the folks who helped him to victory, and go back to his winning ways.

Sure, he’s got to swallow his pride and adjust. Looking at the history of the fight game, it’s not so clear he’ll be able to do that. “Impossible” and “inconceivable” as an American TV series? Nope. But let’s hope for the best.

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