In August, the UFC will return to the land of caipirinhas and capoeira for the first time in over twelve years, with UFC 134: “Silva vs. Okami” featuring a lot of Brazilians throwing down against foreigners (hopefully, just in the cage) in lovely Rio de Janeiro. Hooray! A big MMA event in Brazil! *Cue celebratory samba music.* Of course, everyone knows that Brazil boasts a rich and vibrant MMA scene, with grassroots shows going down with about as much frequency (and fanfare and accountability) as pickup basketball games in Greenwich Village in the summertime. But the country has had its fair share of notable events over the years – some big, some small, and not all of them involving Helio Gracie versus some dude for three tortuous hours straight. So here’s a quick rundown of them to bring you up to speed. You’re welcome.
World Vale Tudo Championship, 1996-2002 – Although the inaugural event took place in Japan, the World Vale Tudo Championship became a staple in Brazil after that, because, hey, why not? Anyway, this is the place where Jose “Pele” Landi-Jons had one of his epic bouts against Jorge “Macaco” Patino, and if you’ve ever wondered where Mark Kerr’s nickname “The Smashing Machine” came from, it was from his literal smashing of Fabio Gurgel (supposedly the “next Rickson Gracie”) at WVT 3.
International Vale Tudo Championship, 1997-1999 – Also known as the IVC, or, affectionately, “where UFC fighters go to make an extra buck the hard way”, this was the biggest thing going in Brazil for a while. As the name implies, it was vale tudo rules (i.e. anything goes), and though the promotion saw Wanderlei Silva walk through Mike Van Ardsdale and gave guys like Carlos Barreto and Renato Sobral a chance to kick ass, the most memorable thing about the IVC was how “Big Daddy” Gary Goodridge won the first tournament: by reaching into his opponents’ cups and squeezing.
Pentagon Combat, September, 1997 – Hey, do you like riots? Then have I got an show for you! Picture this: Oleg Taktarov quickly KOing muscle-bound jiu-jitsu rep Sean Alvarez, Murilo Bustamante knocking out Jerry Bohlander with an up-kick (a heretofore unseen technique), and, in the piece de resistance, Renzo Gracie taking on Eugenio Tadeau in a “jiu-jitsu vs. luta livre” match-up. During the Gracie/Tadeau contest, things got so heated that Gracie was actually stabbed through the cage. Then the lights went out and all hell broke loose. This ugly turn of events set MMA back quite a bit in Brazil, because, well, a RIOT, but things are cool now.
UFC Ultimate Brazil, October, 1998 – No riots here, just Pedro Rizzo knocking out Tank Abbott and Vitor Belfort absolutely devastating Wanderlei Silva in one of the most enduring case studies in why you should never move straight back in a fight. Seriously, lateral movement. That’s the way to go.
Rio Heroes, 2007-2008 – A brutal event with almost no rules, filmed at a secret location and broadcast over the Internet. Really, what’s not to love?
Jungle Fight, 2003-present – Did you know that there’s this really big jungle in Brazil called the Amazon? If you keep that in mind, then having an MMA event in it and calling it Jungle Fight seems to make sense. Run by longtime jiu-jitsu and MMA character Wallid Ismael, this organization has seen scraps like Lyoto Machida vs. Stephan Bonnar and Jose Aldo vs. Luciano Azevedo unfold (Machida won and Aldo lost). Pretty neat, huh?
Shooto Brasil, 2007-present – Shooto has had a long and distinguished tenure in Japan, so the expansion of the franchise was inevitable. And while it never really took here in the States (hmm, I wonder why?), Nova Uniao chief Andre Pederneiras made it work by putting on small shows in his gym (among other locations) in Brazil. Winning in Shooto Brasil usually means two things: you’re a true badass, and you’re ready to compete in the UFC, Sengoku or Bellator.