Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira: No hard feelings with Junior dos Santos despite split

Junior dos Santos (left) left Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira's gym in Brazil, but Big Nog says they still remain friends.

Junior dos Santos might have departed Team Nogueira for Nova Uniao, but that doesn’t me he’s not still a "good friend" of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, his mentor.

"He’s still my friend," Nogueira told FOX Sports this week. "We’ve got the same boxing coach. Sometimes we still train together."

Back in February, it was reported by Globo (translation via Reddit and h/t Bloody Elbow) that dos Santos left the camp that he came up with for Nova Uniao to train with UFC champions Jose Aldo and Renan Barao. Dos Santos has denied the departure on Instagram, but Nogueira confirmed it with FOX Sports.

"He wanted to improve his ground work with those guys," Nogueira said. … " It just felt better for him to go there and train with those guys. He’s still my good friend."

He’s still my good friend.

-Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira on Junior dos Santos

Nogueira is in Abu Dhabi for his fight Friday against Roy Nelson, which will air on UFC Fight Pass (main card at 2 p.m. ET, prelims at 11 a.m. ET). The Brazilian legend has actually been in the Middle East for two weeks in preparation for what will likely be a very hot night in an outdoor stadium.

"Minotauro" said it hasn’t been as sweltering as he thought it would be, but is glad he went early to prepare his body. Nogueira said he’s been training more for endurance — it’s a five-round fight — than anything else.

"When you’re fighting five rounds, I know I gotta move a lot," Big Nog said. "I better be ready. He’s the type of guy [who is] hard to submit, it’s hard to knock him out."

While he was in the area, Nogueira visited his team’s gym in Dubai, finishing his training camp there. The 37-year-old views Abu Dhabi as "the motherland" of grappling, which is why he was so excited to fight Nelson in the country.

If the UFC keeps coming up with interesting fights in locales like this, Nogueira said he’ll continue fighting until he can’t do it anymore. Retirement isn’t on his mind at all.

"I’m not really thinking about it," Nogueira said. "It depends on how I keep fighting, my motivation."

He’s absolutely motivated for Nelson. Nogueira said he had a long talk with dos Santos about "Big Country." Dos Santos beat Nelson by decision in 2010. The mentor and protégé still talk regularly despite the split.

"Everything is good," Nogueira said. "Junior, he’s always watching new things. He’s one of the best fighters I ever met."