Mauricio "Shogun" Rua made it plain: he has two more fights in him before he calls it a career.
Approaching his 41st professional fight, Rua is a man (he is 40) many revere as a legend in the sport because of his accomplishments in PRIDE. Rua is one of the few to hold PRIDE and UFC belts, but his UFC run had its ups and downs, and he holds an 11-10-1 record in the promotion. Without a doubt, he was one of the best light heavyweights on the planet, but injuries and inactivity limited the length and consistency of that status. There's a little "What if?" to Rua in the way that only the most intriguing athletes have to their careers, but it makes his championship accolades all the more impressive.
At the end of the day, he is absolutely ingrained in the story of mixed martial arts over the last 30 years. You don't hold wins over Quintion "Rampage" Jackson, Kevin Randleman, Chuck Liddell and Dan Henderson if you aren't. To the man himself, though, he has his own thoughts on how he wants people to remember him as he nears his penultimate bout.
"I want to be remembered forever and have people say, 'Oh, there was 'Shogun.' He was one of the greats,'" Rua said. "For my family and friends, the legacy I want to leave is to be a good person, to always care about people, do what you love and help the people around you."
By all accounts, Rua (27-12-1 MMA, 11-10-1) is well on his way to that stature if not already there. However, there's some danger in having an eye on the end, especially when it comes to fighting. Tack on his age and the fact that at Saturday's UFC 274, Rua is facing someone in Ovince Saint Preux (25-16 MMA, 13-11 UFC) who already holds a sub-minute knockout win over him, and that's a fire with which to play.
With all that experience, however, comes self-awareness, and Rua is taking this fight with the same careful preparation that has spanned his career.
"I prepare for these fights as if it was my first one," he said. "I've worked really hard for this fight on Saturday. I've trained a lot. I'll work really hard for my last fight as well so I can, God-willing, end my career with a win. I prepared as if it was any other fight."
However, the visible light at the end of the fighting tunnel brings extra motivation to end things with a bang. Avenging a loss from November 2014 is a nice way to start wrapping things up, so the drive is there in spades.
"Saint Preux is really good and strong," Rua said. "He beat me the first time, but this rematch is a motivation for me to beat him and get this victory. I know it will be a tough fight. I know he's very strong, but what motivates me the most is that it's a rematch and the fact that he's defeated me."
Rua's appearance at UFC 274 is his first fight in about a year-and-a-half and his first time on a pay-per-view event since UFC 198, but the aura follows him wherever he goes. His dues have been paid, spent and regained, and all that's left is a pair of fights and a ride into the sunset.
The former Chute Boxe representative admitted he wants to end his career with a win, calling it a potentially "great memory" and a "dream come true." Likely, it'd go up there with his other two moments that stick in his mind: winning PRIDE and UFC titles. Ultimately, though, his legacy is nearly sealed and respect from his peers is earned. This is all just all to put a stylish, action-packed bow on it all.
He is certain of exactly how much more he has to give, and he's not lowering his own standards by any means.
"It's a dream come true to be a role model to people," Rua said. "People say, 'Oh, you've been fighting for 20 years already,' but I'm not that old. I'm 40, and a lot of guys like Demian (Maia), (Fabricio) Werdum and (Michael) Bisping reached their prime late not so long ago, so these people are a motivation for me.
"I know I still have some fight left in me."
This story first published at UFC.com.