If it seems like there's a lot of excitement among the BE crew about the return of the UFC to Brazil for UFC 134: Rio, well, that's because there is. Brazil is the cradle of modern day MMA, home to some of the sport's most legendary fighters and legendary moments, and it just feels right that Dana White and company are bringing the show back home.
There's a lot of great Brazilian MMA history being covered this week, but I wanted to focus on perhaps my favorite aspect of Brazilian MMA - the weird stuff. Yes, it's true that Brazil has been home to stand up wizards like Anderson Silva, supreme ground masters like the Gracies, some of the fiercest competitors ever like Wanderlei Silva. But it's also home to some rabid fans, and the original "no rules" style, which means that over the years, a lot of crazy action has gone down in Brazil. For the rest of the week, I'll break down some of that craziness. We start with one of the most infamous MMA events of all time:
Renzo Gracie vs. Eugenio Tadeu
September 27, 1997
You know you're in for a good time when Sherdog lists the official result of a match as "No Contest - Fans Rioted."
One of the staples of Brazilian MMA has always been the inter-camp rivalry. Fiercely loyal students of one camp or style would proudly defend that style against all comers - this was in fact the entire early basis of Gracie Jiu Jitsu. One of the earliest, and greatest, of these rivalries was Jiu Jitsu vs. Luta Livre.
One one side, you had the followers of Jiu Jitsu and the great Gracie family. Matt Roth broke down some of the Gracie family history yesterday, so be sure to check his article out for more. On the other side, you had Luta Livre, a "free fight" style with a somewhat greater emphasis on strikes than you saw on the Gracie side. Luta Livre's most famous representative was Marco Ruas, the UFC 7 champion. Both sides believed they had the superior style, and were eager to prove it by defeating the other. There was also a bit of a class element at play here, as Luta Livre was generally considered the preferred style of the poorer class. There are a lot of classic Jiu Jitsu vs. Luta Livre battles, but none were as big as Renzo vs. Tadeu.
Pentagon Combat was meant to bring the big UFC style show to Brazil. With funding from Sheik Tahnoon Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the man who would go on to found the ADCC Submission Wrestling events in Abu Dhabi, the show brought in big international names, including UFC veterans Oleg Taktarov and Jerry Bohlander. But they knew they needed a big main event, so they turned to one of the best representatives of Gracie Jiu Jitsu - Renzo Gracie - and one of the best representatives of Luta Livre - Eugenio Tadeu.
Fans were excited - perhaps a little too excited. As the story goes, early in the show, several Luta Livre students stormed the cageside area, overwhelming the understaffed security, and positioning themselves right by the cage for the duration of the show - waiting to cheer Tadeu on to victory.
By the time the main event came, the fans were rabid, and they only grew more vocal as the fight progressed. Keep an eye on the throng of fans and cornermen just outside the cage.
Video of the fight in the full entry.
Through the course of the fight, the fans press forward, hoping for a better view of the action, until spectators are directly against the cage. Eventually, people begin climbing the cage, leading to a stop in the action. Fans standing ringside pull those climbing on the cage down, punches start coming, people start throwing chairs, and that's it for the fight.
No definitive end to the fight meant no closure to this chapter of the Luta Livre vs. Jiu Jitsu war. The riot would have severe repercussions, with MMA being banned in the area for many years. It remains one of the craziest moments in MMA history, and a sign of what a truly fanatic fan base exists in Brazil.