It's been twelve years since the UFC hosted an event in Brazil, and it will make a return trek back in 2011. Is it the right move long term?
Global expansion has been a progressing trend in the UFC's portfolio of aggressive ideas to create more revenue, and we've heard a consistent motto from the UFC's brass that their brand of mixed martial arts can and will be a worldwide phenomenon. The promotion has successfully entered the sports' markets of Canada and England with only minor hiccups, and they've made plans to expand into emerging markets such as China and Eastern Europe. While each of those regions have benefits in their own unique way, Brazil may prove to be the emerging market with the most upside and impact.
In December, the UFC announced that it would return to Brazil after a lengthy twelve year absence. To most fans, it's a logical step in the idea that the UFC wants to be a worldwide brand. After all, Brazil harbors many of the most exciting fighters under the UFC's banner, and the mixed martial arts' climate in Brazil is full of life and vigor. There are other factors, however, that make a case that Brazil will surpass regions like England and Canada and become of the UFC's most prized international destination.
From a talent perspective, Brazil continues to produce a high number of quality prospects. Look no further than the 2011 World MMA Scouting Report as evidence to that statement. In the three divisions that we've covered so far, Brazil has dominated the landscape in terms of potential, and there is no reason why the region won't continue to produce young, up-and-coming fighters for years to come. It's most likely due to the high-quality training one can receive in both Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Muay Thai in the region, and it's one of the only areas in the world where a fighter can hone both their stand-up and ground skills at a world class level.
Those prospects could easily fill a vast array of cards set in the region, from the main event down to the first fight on a preliminary card. Local stars, which are much more prominent in Brazil, would fill seats, even three hours before the actual pay-per-view begins. It's a huge disparity from cards featured in the United States where we see empty arenas during the unaired preliminary bouts.
If a plethora of talent and local support weren't enough, the economic boom that is occurring in Brazil should be an indicator of success. Dana White indicated that the UFC began thinking seriously about expanding into Brazil following the announcement that the country would host the Olympics. While the Olympics has historically caused some groans among the fiscally responsible as to the downfalls it can cause, it can also bolster youth involvement in sports along with interest in local sports. It also serves as a catalyst to investment, and that should add numbers to the growing middle class in the country.
With a few years to go before the Olympic boom and foreign investors jumping on board, the argument that Brazilian crowds simply don't have the money to attend will grow smaller and smaller within the next half decade. A constant supply of great talent, raucous local crowds of enduring support, and the possibility of Brazilian fighters holding multiple championships for a number of years should bring the UFC quite a bit of revenue and huge interest in Brazil. The fact that the UFC chose 2011 as a time to get their feet wet is no coincidence. It will be the first of many trips to South America, and it should give them a steady base of revenue for years to come.