Anderson Silva has seen first-hand how MMA has grown in his native country of Brazil.
And now, with the first UFC event since 1998 set to take place this Saturday, Silva hopes to see even more growth come from South America.
“I hope it keeps growing,” said Silva, who will defend his UFC middleweight title against Yushin Okami at UFC 134: Silva vs. Okami from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. “We have great athletes here in Brazil. We have great names here in Brazil – great athletes who are just making themselves known here in Brazil, so we aim to keep working on it.”
At an open workout session Wednesday from Copacabana Beach, Silva (30-4) was swarmed by the masses, showing just how popular he is in Brazil.
The Brazilian fans also showed the UFC just how serious they are about the sport, selling out the 14,000-seat HSBC Arena in just 74 minutes. Talks about an event next year have already started.
This will be Silva’s first time fighting in Brazil in nearly eight years, and the first chance he has had to compete there inside the UFC’s Octagon.
“Fighting at home is like a Brazil-Argentina soccer game, but in Brazil,” Silva said. “We keep focused, of course, but we stay happy because of such a warm reception.”
Silva has shown that he is quickly becoming a huge star, signing deals with Burger King, Nike and soccer club Corinthians – all of which were displayed on his jacket during the press conference. “The Spider” was especially proud of the soccer logo.
“It’s a dream come true for me,” Silva said. “I even tried out for the team, midfielder position, but it didn’t work out so well. But Corinthians also had a boxing center with Vitor Riebeiro, so I ended up there.”
FightLine.com will have live, ongoing coverage of UFC 134: Silva vs. Okami this Saturday.