First, the news: UFC announced Wednesday that it will return to Brazil for the first time since 1998 with an event scheduled for Aug. 27, 2011, at the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janiero.
“We couldn’t wait to host our first-ever UFC event in Brazil’s biggest city,” UFC president Dana White said. “Brazilians have given so much to the growth of this sport. I’m excited that we can give back to the country that has given us so many great fighters. From Royce Gracie and Vitor Belfort to 'Shogun' Rua, Anderson Silva and Jose Aldo, these fighters are all champions and are so proud of their roots. It’s time for us to bring a live UFC event here and show the people of Brazil how much this sport has grown.”
Now, the speculation: Which Brazilian fighters will be on that card?
UFC has a tendency to give fighters a chance to fight in their hometown whenever possible. Georges St-Pierre, a Canadian, fought on the first Montreal card at UFC 83, and again last weekend at UFC 124. British fighters Michael Bisping and Dan Hardy are on nearly card in the UK.
Silva fights Vitor Belfort in February, and the winner could very feasibly defend the middleweight title in his home country. Maybe Rua is finally healthy enough to fight Rashad Evans. Jose Aldo figures to get a shot, too. Lyoto Machida may even get a chance to fight before his home crowd.
And what about Renzo Gracie, whose family pretty much invented the sport of Brazilian jiu-jitsu? He last fought at UFC 112 in April in Abu Dhabi, a place where the Gracie family figures prominently.
Might this also figure into the decision of making Wanderlei Silva a coach on the next season of "The Ultimate Fighter." He's been rumored to be among the candidates, and building up to the fight in Brazil seems like a no-brainer for marketing.
Anyone who was in the crowd at UFC in Brazil back on Oct. 16, 1998, will see a vastly different sport. No more "vale tudo" fights -- "anything goes." No more mismatches in weight. Mixed martial arts is far more refined than it was in its original incarnation, which has helped grow the sport into a global attraction.
“This is another giant step forward in our global expansion and in growing UFC into the biggest sport in the world,” said UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta. “By bringing world-class fights back to Brazil, we not only secure a foothold in a major international market but we also give back to the people who have supported UFC for nearly 20 years.”
For the sake of fun, here's a look at the fight card from UFC: Ultimate Brazil:
Frank Shamrock def. John Lober by submission, 7:41.
Vitor Belfort def. Wanderlei Silva by TKO, 0:44
Pedro Rizzo def. Tank Abbott by KO, 8:07
Pat Miletich def. Mikey Burnett by split decision, 21:00
Tsuyoshi Kosaka def. Pete Williams by unanimous decision, 15:00
Ebenezer Fontes Braga def. Jeremy Horn by submission, 3:28
Cesar Marscucci def. Paulo Santos by TKO, 10:27.
Tulio Palhares def. Adriano Santos by TKO, 9:00.