Maldonado recently left Team Nogueira - headquartered in Rio de Janeiro - to open his own academy in Sorocaba, Săo Paulo. It seemed like merely a professional decision but Maldonado says there is more to it.
The outspoken light-heavyweight talked with Combate.com / Fighters Only Brazil correspondent Raphael Marinho and said that the end of the relationship, which started in 2004, was because he had been refused the right to open a Team Nogueira franchise.
In a further twist, Maldonado claims that his attempts to open an official branch were denied even while fellow Team Nogueira member Rafael Feijao Cavalcante was running a gym in Sorocaba and had branded it Team Nogueira without permission.
“I told Rogerio [Lil Nog] and Eric that I would start an academy but they pretended not to hear me. They would not let me use the name, but others used it for many years,” he says.
“Everybody wants to use ‘Team Nogueira.’ He let everybody use that name all over Brazil. They have nothing to say about people not being able to use the name. You take an academy in [a provincial backwater like] Belem do Para, the guy uses it and nobody tells him otherwise.
“Anything they say different from that is a lie. I tell in their faces. I even negotiated, saying ‘well, there are people who used the brand already for more than two years. They told me I couldn’t and that the guys who used Team Nogueira’s name were hand-picked and that I wasn’t one of them.
“They let guys use the name without paying, but not me. [Feijao] was three, four years using it for free, since 2009 Team Nogueira’s name is used in Sorocaba. I was speaking mainly with [Rogerio] Minotouro and Eric Lobao but they were pretending they weren’t understanding me. It would have been easier to tell the truth and say they let Feijao use it and wouldn’t be letting me use it.”
Nogueira tells the story differently, saying that a one-year negotiation went nowhere. After this, says Nogueira, Maldonado left to form his own team. At that time, Team Nogueira decided to make Feijao’s branch in the same city an official offshoot of their team.
“Maldonado built his own academy, with another brand, with another name, opening a possibility for us to begin our own branch in the city [Sorocaba]. It was a situation which Feijao had interest, came in and made the deal. How could I say no to Feijao?” says Big Nog.
“I missed him, when he left the professional team [in Rio], but this wasn’t about training, it was about the franchise gym. The branch over there is Rafael Feijao’s… I don’t participate much in the commercial side [of Team Nogueira]. I am completely from the technical part. In financial and commercial department I am nobody.
“Maldonado had an opportunity, brought people to make part of the franchise, but it was Feijao who concluded the deal and bought the franchise. It totally was the commercial aspect that dictated it. It was not something personal between Maldonado, Feijao and me, far from it. All commercial dealings don’t pass through me.”
Confronted with Nogueira’s version, Maldonado shakes his head. “Minotauro [Big Nog] is lying,” he says.