When the UFC presented UFC 134 at the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil it was the first time the promotion had visited the country that is considered the birthplace of mixed martial arts since 1998. Understandably, the UFC stacked the card with hometown fighters.
Since that August 2011 event, the UFC has been back to Brazil seven times. Each time the promotion has followed that same pattern, putting a large number of Brazilian fighters on the card. Heading into Wednesday’s UFC Fight Night 28 card, the Brazilian fans may be saying, “enough’s enough.”
According to Combate (h/t to MMAFighting.com), the UFC has sold less than 5,000 tickets for UFC Fight Night 28, a card that will take place at the Mineirinho Arena. The last time the promotion visited that arena was UFC 147, which drew a reported 16,643 fans.
UFC 147 was plagued by a litany of line up changes. So much so that the UFC offered full refundsto those that wanted them. Even with that offer, more than 16,000 fans attended the event.
UFC Fight Night 28 doesn’t have the draw of UFC 147’s main event, which featured Wanderlei Silva versus Rich Franklin, but the other fights on the main card may actually be stronger for tonight’s event. The only really recognizable name outside of Silva and Franklin on UFC 147 was Fabricio Werdum.
Fight Night 28 features a main event between Glover Teixeira and Ryan Bader, while the co-main event will see Yushin Okami facing Jacare Souza. In addition, Joseph Benavidez will face Jussier Formiga. Those are three solid fights.
The problem is that before the card gets to those three fights, there’s not much name recognition, even for the most hardcore fans.
The UFC’s thinking on these Brazilian cards seems to be that the Brazilian fans will fork over their cash to see Brazilian fighters competing against opponent. That may have been true when the promotion made its first visit to some of these venues, but as it hits locations a second or third time it turns out that Brazilian fans are just like any other UFC fans, they want to see meaningful fights, not just bouts between some random dudes that they know nothing about.
The UFC did a great job getting the Brazilian fans invested in the promotion as it returned to the country after a long absence. It’s now finding out that it will be harder to keep those fans coming back for more.
UFC Fight Night 29 is pretty much already set as the next Brazil card, but UFC Fight Night 32 is wide open outside the main event. I would be very surprised if the promotion didn’t come up with a card that resembles one that a North American crowd would get for that November 9 event.