The stars were all aligned. The stage was set. It was to be the biggest fight in UFC history in front of the biggest, most raucous crowd in UFC history. Dana White could almost hear the cash registers going berserk. Brazil’s two most beloved figh
ters Anderson Silva and Vitor Belfort would be squaring off against public enemy #1 south of the equator Chael Sonnen and MMA legend Wanderlei Silva in a soccer stadium under the stars in Sao Paulo. Fans and media alike all across the globe were salivating at the prospect of seeing this event come to pass.
Then unexpectedly, cracks began to form in the plan. A noise ordinance in the city of Sao Paulo forced the event to move to a different locale. Rio became a suitable plan B, until the UN Summit filled all the hotel rooms, and the UFC was searching for a new venue. When it was all said and done, Estadio Jornalista Felipe Drummond in Belo Horizonte was selected, but by then, the UFC was forced to move its “Fight of the Century” main event to Las Vegas to headline UFC 148 instead.
Silva vs. Sonnen II would not happen in Brazil. Just as fans were coming to accept the change, Vitor Belfort broke his hand in training, thus rendering him unable to compete against rival Wanderlei Silva in the new UFC 147 main event. And with that, Brazil’s two biggest names in MMA would not be fighting in front of their fans.
Consequently, the reaction (or lack thereof) towards UFC 147 as it now sits has been poor at best. For the first time ever, a full refund is being offered to ticket holders. While the perception is that fans are jumping ship and PPV numbers will be abysmal, I would contend that not only will the event be a success despite all the churn; it will be a standout event as well.
First of all, I sympathize with all other fight fans who are feeling the disappointment of what could have been. However, let’s move past what could have been and look at what actually is. UFC 147 will be a can’t miss card and here’s why:
The venue: Estadio Jornalista Felipe Drummond isn’t the 60,000 seat outdoor soccer stadium that the UFC hoped for, but what they got was the largest indoor stadium in Brazil. What that means is that for the UFC’s third trip to Brazil in the last two years, more fans will have the chance to attend this weekend than during the previous two trips to Rio. MMA is the fastest growing sport in Brazil and UFC 147 presents the chance for the UFC to showcase their talent to a new market in the largest Brazilian venue to date.
The fans: Brazilian MMA fans are passionate about the sport like no other. They show up to all the workouts, arrive early to the events, and scream and chant from beginning to end. That kind of passion is contagious and will even spill over to the PPV viewers. The energy and volume from the arena will translate across to the PPV audience as well, so no matter the vantage point, expect to feel amped up.
TUF Brazil: To see the future, sometimes we need to stop and look at the present. Brazil is where MMA was born. Since the early days of Jiu Jitsu and Vale Tudo, Brazil has been home to fighters since the beginning. Many of the best fighters in the world never reach their potential because they don’t have the opportunity to dedicate themselves fully to the sport. Poverty cripples millions of Brazilians, many of whom turn to MMA to escape life on the street. It’s a familiar story, but it’s clear that by giving these young fighters the opportunity to make it on the big stage, their lives could be changed forever. Anyone else think that might motive these guys to put on a show Saturday night? Basically these relatively unknown fighters will have the chance to show the world what they are made of. I expect to see the next batch of rising stars in the UFC at their best.
The main event: Yeah, yeah we already saw Wanderlei Silva vs. Rich Franklin, right? What we also saw was a highly competitive, fight of the night between two former world champions that ended with a less than conclusive decision. While the winner might not be next in line for a title shot, the fight itself will be a thriller. For instance, when was the last time Wanderlei Silva was in a boring fight? We are still waiting for that to happen. What about Rich Franklin? Ditto. These two are fan favorites not only because they are former world champions, but because of how they fight. They always put on a show worth the price of admission. And isn’t being an MMA fan all about watching great fights?
Really we can go on and on about why UFC 147 matters. I can’t argue that it will be the product that it was drawn up to be starting several months ago, but it’s clear that this will be a can’t miss event. The UFC always comes through and they’ll do it again Saturday night. Understandably, there will be some naysayers and those who feel some great injustice has befallen them than can never be forgiven and certainly they are entitled to think that. In the meanwhile, UFC 147 will deliver a tremendous night of fights which is what they do best. I know I’ll be watching. Will you?