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The UFC returns to the birthplace of modern MMA

The UFC’s attempts to become global aren’t just about ego and status – one of the big reasons they’re trying to spread as quickly as they can is so a loss of interest in one region doesn’t wipe them out completely (like what happened to MMA in Japan). Up to this point the focus has been on Europe – specifically countries with strong economies like the UK and Germany.

But with Europe now on the same financial edge as North America (seriously, we have big problems and no one’s doing anything about them), a new market has suddenly become interesting: Brazil. The UFC had a press conference yesterday and announced their first South American show in 12 years will be held in Rio de Janeiro on August 27th. Kevin Iole reports on why the sudden interest:

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.

Considering the country’s passion for MMA was alive and well last year when the Fertittas listed Brazil as a less important market than Italy and Spain, I’ll stick with ‘Brazil is no longer a cesspool of poverty and crime’ as the reason. The police spent a good portion of last month sweeping drug dealers out the favelas as part of a 5 year plan to clean things up for the Olympics. So now the UFC just has to hope it’s event doesn’t spark the kind of crazy riots MMA has caused in the past, otherwise it might find itself as another undesired element in Brazil’s efforts to fix up it’s image.

(image via GracieMag’s press conference gallery)