After a highly successful show in Rio earlier this year, the UFC is now casting a new Ultimate Fighter reality show there with Vitor Belfort and Wanderlei Silva cast as coaches, and UFC 142 will head back to Rio in January.
During the mid-year part of 2012, the UFC is also expected to put on a major stadium show in Brazil that could see the largest audience in the sports’ history in attendance.
For all the talk about how big the sport is getting in Brazil, it’s still relevant to get the perspective of somebody on the ground there that lives and breathes MMA and lives in the country.
That’s where well known Brazilian manager Alex Davis comes in.
Davis works with some of the top fighters in the sport including Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva, Rousimar Palhares, Edson Barboza, and Thiago Tavares. He also resides full time in Brazil and has literally seen the sport explode in the country ever since the UFC came to town.
“Let me just tell you this, you go to the bank and you hear people talking about it. You catch a taxi cab and people talk about it. I got a lot of media from the last UFC Rio, it was on open TV, and now I can’t go to the supermarket in my hometown, people keep stopping me wanting to talk about fighting. It’s in the blood,” Davis told MMAWeekly Radio.
White has infamously said time and again that he believes MMA will be the biggest sport in the world over the next 10 years, and while some may scoff at that idea, Davis isn’t one of them.
He especially points to Brazil as a market that will not only sustain the UFC, but grow the sport as a whole because fans there crave fighting.
“It’s absolutely true. I think that nobody realized it, they didn’t realize it, I certainly didn’t realize it. If you asked me two years ago if the UFC would come to Brazil, I always thought that the financials here would not work for them. Every time I tried to put up an event, and I put everything on a spreadsheet, I couldn’t sell the ticket price and the number of tickets sold wouldn’t make it successful,” said Davis.
“Now, as UFC came to Brazil and it was on open TV. In Brazil you have soccer as the main sport, and you have volleyball as a far, far second. So MMA seems to filling that space between the two sports. Now, everybody I know, everybody I talk to wants to talk about fighting.”
Davis also believes that the sport’s rapid growth and expansion in Brazil will lead to bigger sponsors hopping on board as well. UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva has already inked deals with Burger King and Nike in Brazil, and Davis thinks more name brands will be jumping on the MMA bandwagon soon enough.
“I think what’s going to happen here in Brazil faster than in other countries, is that you’re going to see big sponsors jump on the sport. Companies that might not have jumped on in the States or in Europe, in Brazil they will be willing to jump on it,” said Davis.
It’s not what anyone expected when the UFC first talked about going to Brazil. Despite the country being the birthplace of jiu-jitsu and the breeding ground for so many great MMA fighters, Brazil has been a tough market to crack in the past.
The UFC however has found a new home where they will excel and it may already be the biggest market for the company outside of the United States.
“I don’t think anybody realized how big this market could be,” Davis said. “I think when they came down here and they realized it, they changed their whole plan and their whole strategy, they accommodated Brazil.
“They now have a TUF show down here, Lorenzo (Fertitta) was down here last month and he was all over the place, now you have Dana (White) down here, they realize it.”