Thursday evening as night settled upon Rio de Janeiro, a truly unique occasion occurred at the historic Critso Redentor landmark high above the city.
Hosted by UFC Fight Pass Brazil host Evelyn Rodrigues and featuring some of the crème de la crème of current and former Brazilian UFC stars, a few select guests and media gathered to mark the longstanding relationship between the company and the country.
The celebration not only marked the UFC’s first return to Rio since UFC 237 in 2019, but their first return to Brazil since the coronavirus pandemic took hold in 2020. Saturday’s UFC 283: Teixeira vs Hill will kicks off the first Pay Per View of the promotion’s historic 30th year.
But chief among the reasons to celebrate was the long-awaited release of UFC FIGHT PASS in Brazil. Long the industry leader of streaming MMA in other territories, the service finally became available to Brazil at the beginning of 2023. For a country and a culture so steeped in martial arts, it feels like a marriage made in heaven.
Elite fighters like Jose Aldo, Charles Oliveira, Rafael dos Anjos, Amanda Ribas, Amanda Lemos, Renato Moicano, Vicente Luque, Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira and others joined the intimate crowd for this once-in-a-lifetime occasion.
Cristo Redentor (or “Christ the Redeemer” in English) was voted one of the seven New Wonders of the World. Standing atop Corcovado mountain in the Tijuca National Park, one can scarcely imagine the skyline of Rio de Janeiro without the outstretched arms of the iconic figure, visible for miles in all directions.
Built between 1922 and 1931 by a team of sculptors and engineers, the concrete and soapstone structure quickly became synonymous with its home city, like the Statue of Liberty in the United States or the Tower Bridge in London.
Even under the most normal of circumstances, the statue is a breathtaking work to behold, but as is often the case with the UFC, these were far from normal circumstances.
Following some inspiring welcome words from Padre Omar and UFC Senior Vice President, Latin America Eduardo Galetti, the viewing platform darkened and the audience were treated to a short film—projected directly onto the statue itself—featuring unforgettable iconic moments from former Brazilian UFC champions like UFC 283’s Glover Teixeira, Jessica Andrade and Shogun Rua, alongside future Hall of Famers like Anderson Silva and Jose Aldo. When the lights came back up, an image of the UFC championship belt was projected over the shoulder of the 98-foot tall statue.
UFC Fight Pass Vice President and General Manager Crowley Sullivan took in the spectacle with awe.
“For one of the most iconic brands in the world to kick off in one of the most iconic places in the world… how can you beat that?”
Even the native Brazilian athletes in attendance, all who had been to the landmark any number of times before, were awestruck watching the celebration of their company and their careers in their homeland.
“In all of Brazil, but especially in Rio… it’s a different atmosphere here,” explained former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos, who has called the city home the last few years. “Everything stated here with all the Gracies. It’s just great.”
The unprecedented fight week in Brazil rolls on Friday with several public events, including ceremonial weigh-ins and meet-and-greets. You can find that schedule here.