Brazilian MMA champ issues plea over Amazon fires

Jessica Andrade urged action to put out the Amazon rainforest fires (AFP Photo/Mauro Pimentel)
Jessica Andrade urged action to put out the Amazon rainforest fires (AFP Photo/Mauro Pimentel)

Shenzhen (China) (AFP) - Brazilian MMA champion Jessica Andrade urged swift action to douse the fires burning out of control in the Amazon rainforest on Friday as she prepared for her UFC strawweight title defence.

Andrade, 27, who will face China's Zhang Weili in Shenzhen on Saturday, will enter the cage in a traditional tribal headdress to highlight the plight of Brazil's indigenous regions.

Tens of thousands of fires have been set this year in the world's largest rainforest, setting off a global outcry over conservation and environmental concerns.

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"Not enough is being done. We need to preserve our natural environment," Andrade said in southern China.

"We have so many natural riches and it seems as though we are letting them be destroyed. This has to stop. The lands and the indigenous people seem to have no protection and we must listen to their voices."

Andrade said she hoped to draw attention to the problems facing Brazil's tribal population, including the loss of traditional lands and native species.

"I do this now as it is a way of bringing my people with me, and my culture," she said. "It makes me feel very proud and of course this is part of my character.

"My goal now is to give exposure to the native people of Brazil and the issues they are being forced to face. They need to have a voice."

Andrade traces her family's heritage back into the forests of Brazil through her fraternal great grandmother, who was captured as a native bride.

"My grandmother told me the story that her own mother was caught with a lasso in forest and that's how she became part of my family," Andrade said.

"We are Italian also and we are Portuguese and we are quite mixed, which is very Brazilian. I am only just now exploring the indigenous side of my family and I think it is the same with many people in Brazil.

"We all have a strong connection to the land from which we come."

Andrade has established a 20-6 record as she has climbed to the top of the UFC's ranks. The sixth-ranked Zhang (19-1) is the first Chinese fighter to get a title shot with the world's premier mixed martial arts organisation.

"I have a stage now as world champion and I am thankful that I am able to use it," said Andrade.

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