By Jayme Monsanto, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Ever since its creation in 1993, the Ultimate Fighting Championship has seen huge participation numbers from Brazilian fighters. Throughout the competition’s sixteen years, 65 Brazilian fighters have followed the path forged by Royce Gracie, who won the first, second and fourth editions of UFC, and showed the world the power of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
While many of these 65 fighters failed to succeed, seven of them have claimed UFC World Championship Belts: Royce Gracie (UFC 1, 2 and 4, in 1993 and 1994), Marco Ruas (UFC 7, in 1995), Vitor Belfort (UFC 12, in 1997 and UFC 64, in 2004), Murillo Bustamante (UFC 35, in 2002), Anderson “The Spider” Silva (UFC 64, in 2006), Antônio “Minotauro” Nogueira (who claimed the interim Heavyweight Championship at UFC 81, in 2008) and Lyoto Machida (UFC 98, in May 2009).
There are five weight classes in UFC: Lightweight (66 to 70 kilograms), Welterweight (71 to 77 kilograms), Middleweight (78 to 84 kilograms), Light Heavyweight (84 to 93 kilograms) and Heavyweight (93 to 120 kilograms). Among the five UFC belts, two now rest in Brazilian hands: Lyoto Machida recently conquered the Light Heavyweight Championship belt (he is a 31 year-old from Bahia trained in Karate and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu) and Anderson “The Spider” Silva has held the Middleweight Championship belt since 2006.
The Spider is a 34 year-old fighter from Curitiba, trained in both Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He is unquestionably the biggest Brazilian fighter in Mixed Martial Arts today, and according to Dana White, UFC President, the best fighter in UFC history. Silva has been undefeated since 2006, successfully defending his Middleweight Champion belt six times, a record for the sport.
Lyoto Machida’s Light Heavyweight belt hasn’t been contested yet, but he will fight to defend it at the UFC 104 event, on October 24. His opponent, however, is also Brazilian, Maurício “Shogun” Rua, and therefore the Light Heavyweight belt will remain in Brazil until 2010 regardless of the outcome.
The Spider’s next fight will be the UFC 101 event. He will face a fighter that belongs to a heavier weight class. Anderson has claimed the Middleweight Class hasn’t been challenging enough for him, and arranged a fight against former Light Heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin. Griffin won the first season of the MMA reality show “The Ultimate Fighter”, granting him a multi-fight contract with UFC.
According to Dana White, UFC President, “The Ultimate Fighter” is one of the key factors for the immense growth of popularity of UFC and MMA throughout the world in the last few years. In Brazil, the TV show is broadcast every Saturday at 1PM on the cable channel FX.
UFC fights are broadcast in Brazil by the pay-per-view channels SporTV and Combate. There is also a weekly show in the Rede TV! channel called UFC – Sem Limites (UFC – Without Limits) on Saturdays at 11:30 PM.
Correction: August 4th, 2009
This article was first published on July 28th mentioning a Noguiera and Couture title fight which was inaccurate.