Tomorrow, the UFC's bright lights will descend on Rio De Janeiro for the third time in the company's history. The first time was at UFC 17.5, while the company had still been owned by SEG.
The last two times have been very different.
Dana White and company bought the company, but they were so busy growing the sport to what it is today that they didn't have a chance to bring the revitalized promotion back to Brazil until UFC 134.
When they did, it was a startling success, with the Brazilian media and fans instantly taking to it and creating a massive craze that went on for days. It was so successful the UFC came back quickly for UFC 142.
The pay-per-view buys even did well for UFC 134, with the buy rate leveling around 335,000.
For a foreign-based show, that is pretty impressive considering some of the other numbers the UFC has seen, like UFC 127, which garnered around 260,000 buys, or UFC 110, which only got around 215,000.
But the card for UFC 142 is starkly contrasted with the one that was made for UFC 134. It is by no means a bad card, but it does have one thing that has changed.
It has no heavy hitters in terms of name recognition.
Jose Aldo heads up the card as the main event, which is a first for him in his UFC career. He is set to face Chad Mendes, who is more known by WEC fans than UFC fans.
Compared to UFC 134's main event—where Yushin Okami, someone who had headed several UFC cards, faced Anderson Silva, who is a pay-per-view draw—it seems like a smaller fight. That isn't to say it is. In all actuality, this fight should be more exciting and just as technical.
But name recognition matters, and it doesn't just stop at the main event.
The co-main event at UFC 134 was a heavily anticipated rematch with Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and Forrest Griffin, both of whom are huge faces for the UFC. Forrest Griffin is one of the biggest names in the company and known by almost every American fan, and Rua is a star in Brazil.
The co-main event for UFC 142 is, again, not a lesser fight, but a smaller one with Vitor Belfort facing Anthony Johnson. Belfort is almost just as big a name in Brazil as Rua and is just as much a veteran, but Johnson isn't going to have the same pull as Griffin did for American fans.
The undercard for the pay-per-view even had the smaller Nogueira brother competing in it.
This card doesn't have one recognizable name to casual American fans. It seems to instead cater to the Brazilian fans who will be watching and in attendance.
There is nothing wrong with that and it will help grow the sport, but at the same time, the buy rate might take a hit because of it.
Regardless, the first event was a can't-miss event and this will be is as well. In some ways, it's even better because fans will get to be exposed to new fighters they didn't know about and whatever talents they bring.
And isn't that part of what fans enjoy about the sport?
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