The UFC’s long awaited return to Brazil is almost upon us with UFC 134: Rio set to go down in a little under two weeks on August 27th.
So far all signs point to the event being a resounding success with the HSBC Arena in Rio having sold out in a little over an hour, but UFC president Dana White actually believes it could have been much, much bigger if they hadn’t misjudged the rapidly growing popularity of the sport in the country that’s often referred to as the birthplace of MMA.
“We end up getting a 14,000-seat area [for UFC 134]. The day the tickets went on sale, 300,500 people were online looking for tickets. So we probably could have done a soccer stadium. So I am kicking myself in the ass a little bit there,” White noted at yesterday’s UFC 134 conference call.
Much of the sudden explosion in interest in mixed martial arts in the region can be traced back to Anderson Silva’s last fight with fellow Brazilian Vitor Belfort.
Belfort was already a star in his home country after appearing on celebrity big brother with his famous model wife Joano Prado and that helped generate a great deal of interest in their showdown at UFC 126 back in february.
That fight turned out to be a true spectacle after Silva produced a stunning front kick KO out-of-the-blue, and he’s since become a big star there, appearing on talk shows and starring in commercials for major brands like Budweiser and Burger King.
While they may not have anticipated this sudden interest the UFC are now making up for lost time and UFC: Rio is only the tip of the iceberg of their plans for Brazil.
“We’re gonna fly to all the different cities down there and we’re meeting with mayors and politicians and we’re talking about moving this thing all over that country,” White says.