UFC heads to Brazil for Aug. 27 event

Kevin Iole
Yahoo! Sports

The Ultimate Fighting Championship has continued to expand and set ticket and gate records despite a struggling economy in much of the world. It won't have any such problems in Brazil, where the economy is one of the most robust in the world and grew nearly 9 percent in the second quarter of 2010.

The promotion will try to take advantage of the economy and the rabid mixed martial arts following in the country when it hosts a pay-per-view card on Aug. 27 at HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro.

UFC president Dana White told Yahoo! Sports on Wednesday that many of the 36 Brazilian fighters on the company's roster would compete on the show. Among the Brazilians under contract to the UFC are light heavyweight champion Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, middleweight champion Anderson Silva, featherweight champion Jose Aldo and middleweight contender Vitor Belfort.

White said the UFC's interest in Brazil intensified after Rio de Janeiro landed the 2016 Summer Olympics.

"Because of how big this is here, people were always asking me about Brazil and when it would happen and I always said it probably won't happen for a while because we weren't focused on it," White said by telephone Wednesday from Rio, where he was headed to a news conference to announce the show. "But when they got the Olympics, I said, 'Now we're interested,' and we really began to look at Brazil.

"The economy is doing extremely well down here. The fact that these guys got the Olympics, the [2014] World Cup and all these big events, it just made sense. The economy has really been kick-started and there are a lot of good things going on in Brazil."

The UFC airs on three channels in Brazil, said Jaime Pollack, the UFC's associate general counsel and director of international television affairs. It supplies about 65 percent of the programming to the Combat Channel, which goes to about 80,000 subscribers at a cost of $40 a month. Sport TV is a national all-sports cable network and Rede TV is a free-to-air broadcast channel.

The card will mark the first UFC event in Brazil in nearly 13 years, since UFC Ultimate Brazil on Oct. 16, 1998, in Sao Paulo.

Brazil is one of four countries that investment firm Goldman Sachs refers to as the "BRIC" countries, along with Russia, India and China. In a 2005 research paper, Goldman Sachs noted that the combined economy of the four countries would exceed the combined economies of the world's richest countries by 2050.

The Goldman Sachs paper predicts Brazil's economy will soon become one of the five largest in the world. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, Brazil's economy is expected to expand 7.6 percent in 2010, its fastest rate of growth in two decades.

That and the country's passion for MMA made a live event in Brazil a no-brainer, White said.

The UFC plans to have the card start at its normal time in the U.S., which is 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT. White said he didn't know who would fight on the card, but said it would be a major one.

HSBC Arena, which will be a host for Olympic events in 2016, will be configured to seat around 13,000, White said. He said he expects tickets to go on sale for the event in May.

"This is going to be a huge show for us and we're going to put on a very strong card," White said. "No matter what market we go into, the guys who are from there always want to fight on that card. And given we have so many Brazilian guys on our roster, you know a lot of them are going to be begging to be on that card.

"We don't need the Brazilians on the card to have a great show in Brazil, but there is going to be a lot of guys desperate to fight in front of their home fans."

White and UFC chairman Lorenzo Fertitta made the nearly 14-hour flight to Brazil on Monday. He said there are a "lot of media misconceptions that this place isn't safe."

"It's a great place and it's very safe and we've been out walking around and loving it," he said. "There have been a lot of people really looking forward to us coming to Brazil. They're going to love this place. It's awesome."

White also said that UFC 127 at Acer Arena in Sydney, Australia, has already sold out. He said more than 18,000 tickets sold in a matter of a few hours.

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