… or are they?
Earlier this week, the UFC announced that Dutch kickboxer and MMA standout Gegard Mousasi will face Lyoto Machida in Machida’s native Brazil next February, and reports of Mousasi’s demise are already being typed.
Saturday’s UFC Fight Night, headlined by Vitor Belfort vs. Dan Henderson, sees Brazil’s Belfort entering the Octagon as a favorite against his US opponent.
It’s accepted in some MMA circles, that if you come from another country, you’re always going to get short shrift in Brazil.
The crowd support is going to be like nothing you’ve ever seen or heard, they say.
The athletic commissions will have it out for you. You won’t have the type of amenities you’d have back home, and they’ll allow the likes of Vitor Belfort whatever leeway they need.
If it goes to judges? Forget it. You’re never going to get a fair shake.
Is it really true, though?
Let’s have a look at the UFC’s history in Brazil.
The UFC has actually only traveled to Brazil three times. The first was Ultimate Brazil back in October of 1998, headlined by a rematch between two Americans, Frank Shamrock and John Lober. It was a good night for the home fighters, with Pedro Rizzo knocking David “Tank” Abbott out to begin his excellent UFC career, and Ebenezer Fontes Braga catching Jeremy Horn in a quick guillotine choke — with no controversy to be found. Also that night, Vitor Belfort scored his most famous victory in a quick TKO of Wanderlei Silva.
The second was UFC 134: Silva vs. Okami in 2011. Here, and the next visit to Brazil for UFC 142 in 2012, we can see where the seeds were planted for the current reputation. In these two ZUFFA forays to Brazil, foreign opponents were mostly selected to showcase Brazil’s greatest stars, like Anderson Silva (pictured above).
Still, the successes weren’t a matter of controversial decisions going the Brazil contingent’s way. UFC 142 had three fights end in decision, Thiago Tavares vs. Sam Stout of Canada, Canada’s Antonio Carvalho vs. Felipe Arantes, and Yuri Alcantara vs. Michihiro Omigawa of Japan. Each was consistent with media scoring.
In their more recent shows in Brazil, UFC has offered more evenly contested bouts for the “home side.” Take last month’s UFC Fight Night: Maia vs. Shields, which pitted Damien Maia vs Jake Shields in the main event. Prior to that, in August, Phil Davis and Lyoto Machida combined for a solid bout at UFC 163.
Hey — funny thing about both those bouts. The Americans won in close decisions against their Brazilian opponents. (In fact, I had Machida defeating Davis narrowly.)
Something else — the judges were flown in from Nevada. Apparently that’s what the UFC always does.
Sure, Belfort may indeed have issues getting his testosterone replacement therapy in Nevada, while it won’t be an issue in Brazil. Still, that controversy actually would apply in many US states too, so it’s not necessarily an issue with Brazil alone.
So what does that leave? A hostile crowd? Those can be found anywhere, although admittedly they’re not always as well-behaved as Fort Campbell last night, who even offered Rafael “Sapo” Natal some polite applause as he fought US Army vet Tim Kennedy.
Take a closer look. Maybe non-Brazilians aren’t doomed in Brazil. Maybe all the parties involved, Henderson and Mousasi included, deserve a little more credit.