Brazil return sees huge potential for UFC
Today the UFC will return to Brazil for the second time in its history when UFC 134 goes down at the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
It has been almost thirteen years since the UFC touched down in Brazil, and they do so in much different circumstances than their original event.
That event, entitled “Ultimate Brazil”, featured two title fights, Vitor Belfort’s 44-second blitzkrieg of Wanderlei Silva and an event poster that featured an incorrectly drawn Brazilian flag.
That event came at a time when the UFC was not yet owned by Zuffa and the sport was banned in 36 states in the US.
Back to present day and Mixed Martial Arts is seen as the fastest growing sport in the world with the UFC just having sealed a groundbreaking deal with the FOX network in the United States.
While the UFC’s initial foray to Brazil came as a way of getting out from backwater arenas in unsanctioned states in the US, they return now to the country because it is a key component in the organization’s global expansion plans.
It’s about time too as the Brazilian market quite frankly has the potential to be the biggest in the entire world.
The rabid nature of Brazilian fandom and nationalism coupled with the plethora of home grown fighters that either hold or are in contention for championships across all divisions is a fantastic concoction for success.
For an example of their fanaticism for their nation in regards to this sport look no further than the reaction by the country and its fighters to UFC middleweight, Chael Sonnen’s recent comments. So incensed by Sonnen’s comments about the Brazilian culture and its people that he was essentially barred from the country because there was a fear of being either arrested on site by Brazilian police or lynched by a Facebook-organised mob.
If you then remind yourself that Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world in terms of both size and population, you begin to realise what kind of beast we will be looking at in the future.
The desire amongst the Brazilian people to see their country succeed is something we have seen for countless years in the football world. We got a glimpse of that same fan reaction a few days ago when an open workout done by UFC middleweight champion and Brazilian, Anderson Silva saw thousands of fans turn out to watch and cheer him on.
Nationalism is of course not something that is exclusive to Brazil but what sets the Brazilian market apart from other lucrative UFC markets such as the US, Canada, England and Australia is that, as UFC president, Dana White puts it, Brazil is the “birthplace of Mixed Martial Arts.”
The UFC and MMA as we know it spawned from the Brazilian Gracie family and their martial art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
This means the sport and the nation are linked in a way that none of the other markets are. One of the major results of this is that the sport receives none of the stigma that is attached to it in other markets, making it much more readily acceptable.
With all this said, amazingly, it was only until recently that Brazil fully invested their attention into the sport. It is said that February’s UFC 126 main event between Brazilian’s Anderson Silva and Vitor Belfort saw the whole of Brazil stop and take notice.
It’s for that reason why it has probably taken the UFC almost thirteen years to return. The response to the return has been so overwhelming already though that a wait of that magnitude will never be reached again with the UFC already entertaining the idea of an event at one of Brazil’s 100,000-seat football stadiums next year.