When 350,000 Brazilians jumped online to purchase tickets to UFC 134, it was a clear statement to the UFC that the country was ready for live action once again.
The 14,000-seat HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro sold out in a matter of minutes, and now, UFC President Dana White is wishing they had landed a larger arena for the card, which takes place on August 27.
“We probably could have done a little bigger arena, but we played it safe the first time down here,” White said. “But this is a big deal, we’re excited about it, and we’re pumped about this card.”
The UFC last hosted an event in Brazil in 1998, as UFC Ultimate Brazil featured such fighters as Frank Shamrock, Vitor Belfort, Pat Miletich and Pedro Rizzo.
UFC 134 will boast a middleweight title fight between Anderson Silva and Yushin Okami. In fact, all five planned main card bouts will have a Brazilian fighter in them, and all but one fight on the entire card will have one.
“Obviously, Brazil has exploded in popularity for mixed martial arts and the UFC, and the guys we have fighting in the UFC and on this card are icons in the sports world down there,” White said. “So yeah, it’s a big deal.”
The co-main event will see Mauricio “Shogun” Rua try to avenge a loss to Forrest Griffin. Heavyweights Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Brendan Schaub will collide, along with lightweights Edson Barboza and Ross Pearson, and Luis Cane and Stanislav Nedkov.
“I always have been connected to sports when I was a kid…including fighting, and (I) always followed MMA, which was vale tudo back in those days,” Rua said. “I loved to watch fighting movies; I like (Jean-Claude) Van Damme and even action movies like ‘Rambo.’
“Unfortunately, when I was a kid, there was a lot of prejudice toward fighting in Brazil, and vale tudo and MMA, people didn’t understand it. And to see it be understood and really growing to the point where we are now, where we can say we are at the top of the game reaching (the) mainstream, it’s a really great feeling. It means a lot to all of us, and to see the UFC come here, it’s pretty much the pinnacle of all that.”