Anderson Silva is seen by many as the best mixed martial artist on the planet, and yet in his home country of Brazil, his success overseas has gone largely unnoticed.
That no longer appears to be the case however after his recent knockout of fellow countryman Vitor Belfort.
UFC Managing Director of International Development Marshall Zelaznik spoke earlier this week about the massive interest there was in Brazil for that title fight, describing it as, “bigger than the World Cup.”
Part of the reason for that was Belfort’s celebrity in the country which is more down to his marriage to Joana Prado, a famous Brazilian model, than his fighting abilities.
The pre-fight hype surrounding this all-Brazilian clash helped attract a real ground-swell of interest, and Silva’s dramatic front kick KO finally helped put not only himself, but the whole sport on the map in the country.
In a new interview on Brazilian Television Silva talks about his new-found fame.
Interviewer: “Today you are someone extremely well known because of this fight [with Belfort]. I’d like to know how you are dealing with this moment, you are giving a lot of interviews and it seems like MMA has finally “arrived” in the homes of Brazilians.”
Silva: “I think it’s a magical moment that the sport is going through. We have arrived where we’d have liked to
There is a lot more work to be done, but I’m happy to be able to keep this title here in Brazil.”
Not only is it a magical moment for Silva, but it’s also perfect timing for the UFC. Earlier in the year they announced that they would be returning to Brazil with a live event in Rio this August, some 13 years since their last visit.
Given the sudden interest in the sport in the region the UFC will no doubt be hoping that this event can capitalize on it, and take it’s popularity to the next level.
“It is going to challenge and rival every other market in the world. Brazil is going to be massive,” Zelaznik claims after having spoken to the UFC’s media partners over there.
It makes sense. Brazilian’s are already big on sports, and MMA’s roots are intrinsically linked to the country. There’s also a conveyor belt of talented fighters being produced over there, which means fans will never be short of a fighter to cheer for.
There’s also the fact that Brazil has a population of over 190,000,000. Contrast that with 22,000,000+ each in Australia and Canada, two of the UFC’s current biggest overseas markets.
In many respects it’s remarkable that it’s taken this long for MMA to become established here, but it’s better late than never.
As a bonus, watch Silva’s full interview on Brazilian TV below (available with subtitles).