by Robbie Blakeley, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – After a twelve year hiatus the hugely popular Ultimate Fighting Championship (U.F.C.) could finally be heading back to Brazil, as organizers prepare the way for the country to host fights in the coming years.
Brazilian fighters currently hold two U.F.C. titles, and it could soon be three after rising star Junior dos Santos won a Number One Contender match at U.F.C. 117 last week, and he will now get his shot at the heavyweight championship in early 2011.
Brazil hasn’t hosted a U.F.C. event since 1998 when São Paulo witnessed the promotional debuts of Pedro Rizzo and then 22 year-old Anderson Silva, who has gone on to achieve legendary status within the sport.
Speaking about the country’s potential, U.F.C. president Dana White thinks the time is right to bring it back to Brazil. “We’re spending money in Brazil right now,” he said. “We’re spending marketing money, PR money, and we’ve got people down there working for us.”
Brazil has produced some of U.F.C.’s greatest fighters, most notably Silva, who, with twelve consecutive wins, holds the longest active winning streak in U.F.C. history. ‘Mixed Martial Arts’, a UFC news magazine, ranks Silva as the best middleweight in the world, and Sherdog and Yahoo! rank the man known as the “Spider” as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
However, making a mark in Brazil won’t be straightforward as White knows;
“You get into these countries, and you have to go in there and cultivate the market. People don’t realize how much work we put into this thing – not just in the U.S. but all over the world,” he told M.M.A. publications.
But with Brazil producing so many top U.F.C. fighters, and last week’s U.F.C. 117 being unofficially dubbed “U.S.A. v Brazil”, White should see success in South America sooner rather than later. The U.S. came out on top on August 7th in the Oracle Arena, Oakland, but Anderson Silva held onto his world crown, beating challenger Chael Sonnen via submission in Round Five. Junior dos Santos earned his number one contender spot by a unanimous decision over Roy Nelson.
Both were grueling bouts, and Silva has now been suspended from fighting for 180 days pending an X-ray and a physician’s clearance due to a fractured rib and awaiting the results of a neurological and C.T. head scan. His opponent, Chael Sonnen, is suspended for sixty days due to facial lacerations, and Junior dos Santos will miss the same period with a laceration on his right cheek.
Meanwhile, Dana White described Anderson Silva’s victory to retain his title as “stunning”, and looked back on the main event of August 7th as “legendary”. A few more fights like that involving Brazil’s top fighters and the path to the country’s U.F.C. future could indeed be paved with gold.