The UFC’s return to Brazil on Aug. 27 is expected to be a big event. Fans in and around Rio de Janeiro are anticipated to flock to the HSBC Arena for the event headlined by Brazilian Anderson Silva defending his UFC middleweight title against Japan’s Yushin Okami.
When the organization mapped out how big it was going to be, they might have undersold themselves a bit.
Tickets for the event sold out in just over an hour, but the demand from hopeful spectators was nearly 25 times the amount tickets available.
That’s right, 25 times.
Admittedly, UFC president Dana White and crew were purposely conservative when scheduling the venue for the event. Things could have been a lot bigger.
“We were a little gun shy down there,” the UFC president confessed on Tuesday.
“I don’t know how many people know this, but we have a 14,000-seat arena down there. 350,000 people were online asking for tickets, so we probably could have a done a little bigger arena, but we played it safe the first time down there.”
The popularity of mixed martial arts is understandable when thinking about Brazil’s demand for the UFC’s arrival. It’s a place with extremely strong roots in MMA, so wanting the sport’s biggest promotion to showcase itself in the region doesn’t seem like that far of a stretch.
Combine a rapidly growing economy with a thirst and passion for the sport and you have a place that will go crazy for an occasional visit by the Zuffa LLC-owned sports league.
A decent amount of the sport’s athletes hailing from the area is a giant boost, too.
“Things are booming over there,” White said about Brazil. “There’s so many talented guys that come out of there. Not just talented guys, literally, icons of the sport come from Brazil. It’s the country where this whole thing started.
“It’s a fighting culture down there. People get it and like it.”
The trip to Brazil is a stepping stone for the UFC’s trek through South and Central America. By setting up shop for fights on Aug. 27 in Rio, the gateway to other Latin American regions opens up and opportunity for further global expansion presents itself.
Perhaps UFC 134 will lead the way to finally getting a UFC event done in Mexico City, like the company has been wanting to for the past couple of years.
According to White, big things are coming for the United States’ neighbors to the South.
“It’s big for Latin America,” he said. “We keep talking about coming down to Mexico and all these other places in Latin America and Brazil is our first big step.”