Within the world of Mexican sports, boxing has long been one of the most important recreational functions to said community. Knowing that, the Ultimate Fighting Championship has long attempted to tap into that fanbase. Now, UFC 188 is here, and with its Mexican-American heavyweight champion, Cain Velasquez, the UFC is finally prepped to pull out all the stops to attract the Mexican combat sports fan.
UFC 188 is stacked with a number of fighters who represent an aspect of the Latino demographic. First there is Velasquez in the main event. Former Strikeforce champion and UFC title challenger Gilbert Melendez is also a Mexican-American. Eddie Alvarez, former Bellator champion, is of Puerto Rican and Irish descent.
Tecia Torres is another individual who is fighting on the card and representing the Latino community.
“To fight in Mexico is amazing,” Torres said in an MMA Junkie piece by Brent Brookhouse. “To represent the Latin American people—especially Latin American women…there’s not many of us fighting. To be one of the ones that are able to set a precedent and to fight in Mexico is really amazing.”
Kelvin Gastelum is another individual who is a part of the Mexican community, as both of his parents were Mexican immigrants.
Another fighter that hopes to make a major impact is Henry Cejudo, an Olympic gold medalist in wrestling whose parents also hail from Mexico.
“I would love to fight in Mexico City,” Cejudo said during the post-fight press conference for UFC 185. “I’m fluent in Spanish, and my parents are from Mexico City.”
If he dominates Chico Camus, then perhaps the UFC will have a flyweight fighter with the fanbase that can be promoted against the current champion, Demetrious Johnson.
Beyond the fighters mentioned, there are other competitors who will compete for the organization while representing some aspect of the Mexican demographic. Hispanic fans have long supported fighters within their own community, and this stands as an opportunity for both the UFC and these competitors to grow their brand in monumental fashion.
Velasquez perhaps has the most to gain when he steps into the cage on Saturday.
The current champion is coming off of another long stint away from the cage due to injury. The champion has not competed since UFC 166 in 2013 when he snatched the title back from Junior dos Santos. Even before that moment, Velasquez has long struggled with injuries that have kept him out of competition for extended periods of time.
If he and interim champion Fabricio Werdum put on a stellar showcase, both men will immediately increase their value among the entire fight community. The UFC has promoted Velasquez as its Mexican champion and, a victory at UFC 188 will further push that messaging to the masses.
The UFC will finally invade Mexico with UFC 188 from the Mexico City Arena. With so many different fighters who boast heritage within the Latino community, the organization has presented one of the best cards available to those within that demographic. With this event, the organization has an opportunity to finally capture the attention of those within the Mexican combat sports fanbase.