By Robbie Blakeley, Contributing Sports Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The HSBC Arena in Barra was filled to the rafters on Saturday night as the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returned to Brazil and Rio de Janeiro for the first time in thirteen years. Of the five Brazilians fighting, four emerged victorious, including Anderson Silva in the evening’s main event.
The 36 year-old, recognized as the best fighter in the world and possibly of all time, recorded a second round knock-out over Japanese challenger Yushin Okami. The Brazilian has now won a staggering fifteen successive fights inside the UFC cage; Saturday night was his ninth defense of his world title belt.
Silva’s technical style was superior throughout and Okami was hanging on from the start. ‘The Spider’ used his speed to dance around his opponent, jabbing ferociously before flooring the challenger and beating him unconscious. Gloating in victory, Silva remarked “It never was and it never will be.”
But the night’s biggest cheers had been saved for Rodrigo Minotauro. His victory over American fighter Brendan Schaub, also by knock-out, ensured that the veteran was not forced to retire from the UFC.
Before his fight, Minotauro had been absent from the ring for eighteen months after undergoing three surgeries. His emotional victory justified his decision to return to the ring, which had been questioned in some quarters.
After the match, the 35 year-old addressed the crowd. “I only accepted this fight because of you. I have realized a dream,” he said. In the night’s other big contest, Mauricio Shogun exacted revenge over Forrest Griffin with a spectacular knock-out in under two minutes.
Following the roaring success of hosting the pay-per-view event in Rio de Janeiro, UFC president Dana White believes more important title bouts should be held in Brazil. In addition to being the country that produces the greatest amount of UFC fighters in the world, Brazil is becoming a bigger and bigger fish in the economic pond and is finally able to compete with more developed countries for top sporting and music events.
But it was not only the warriors in the ring that made the event; the fans packed inside the arena made a telling difference as well. “The 14,000 that were here [in the HSBC Arena] made more noise than the 50,000 in Canada or any other place that we’ve been to. I’ve never experienced before what I’ve seen here tonight,” White said.
White is also confident that Brazil will continue to produce top fighters, and after the huge success of Saturday night the president predicted an explosion in popularity for the combat sport, as well as revealing his belief that there are hidden talents in the country to match Anderson Silva. All that is needed is investment in training programs to help unveil them to the world.
“You’re going to see, in five years new talents are going to appear. There are a lot of hidden Anderson Silvas. Here, there are ten others like him. The best in the world come from Brazil,” he finished positively.