There have been challenges of several varieties in Mauricio "Shogun" Rua's young UFC career. He's had serious injuries. He's gotten married. He's retooled his training regimen. On top of all that, his viewing public has expected perfection in the cage.
But after a quick turnaround from a disappointing victory -- a term that exists only for fighters thought untouchable -- against Mark Coleman at UFC 93, he says he's back on track and ready for Chuck Liddell.
"I can tell you that I'm feeling much more prepared and much more confident right now," Rua said in a media teleconference for this Saturday's UFC 97. "When I fought Coleman, like it or not, I stayed almost one year and a half sidelined, and like it or not, this gets in the way of the training and physical condition."
The Dublin fight was his first since two knee injuries took him out of the game for more than a year. Coleman wouldn't be put away, and Rua gassed midway through the fight, feeling the sudden effects of poor conditioning.
Afterwards, Rua moved from his home in Curitiba, Brazil, to Sao Paulo, where he picked up a new crew of trainers, including middleweight prospect Demian Maia, to help him prepare for the fight in Montreal.
Because he was away from home, he couldn't get comfortable. And by all indications, that was the problem. Following the scattering of his former Chute Boxe team, he had gotten into a routine that wasn't challenging him, and the injuries had sidetracked him further. Life had gotten in the way.
A change in scenery turned out to be the missing ingredient for success.
"For sure, it helped, and it has helped me mainly because of the focus," Rua said. "Sometimes when we're at home, we get a little acquainted and we tend to get distracted with problems and not push ourselves to the limit. So I think moving to another city got me 100-percent focused on the fight and I can tell that I feel much more prepared."
If there's a theme to his assurances, it's preparation. He knows he's due for the relentless, acrobatic performances that have marked his early career and made him a crown jewel of the UFC's purchase of Pride two years ago. His prestige has taken a hit, but he still has the opportunity to turn it around.
"I know my potential, and I know that it's only up to me to reverse this," said Rua.
UFC cameras caught Dana White offering Rua the Liddell fight in the locker room after his victory over Coleman. He said yes, but it was hard to read his reaction to the news. Eventually, he gave a smile and sealed the deal with a handshake.
Despite the criticism he took for the Coleman performance, and maybe because of it, he believes he is primed well for Liddell.
"I only stopped for one week after the fight and already began training camp, and that training camp kept me with the training rhythm," said Rua.
On Saturday, he'll motivate himself with the expectations of others.
"I think it's a weight in my favor, and pushes me forward," he said. "This wasn't any extra pressure in a bad way. I'm very focused on turning this into motivation and presenting my top game to the American audience."