rio de janeiro’s vibrant backdrop hosts the ultimate combat spectacle
Exploring Rio's fighting spirit
When the residents of Rio De Janeiro come together for a mixed martial arts event the city becomes truly alive and this celebration of Brazilian fighting culture signals the perfect time to visit.
The combination of golden beaches, lush mountains, adored local fighters, rich history of martial arts and a world famous dance culture with roots in fighting makes Rio De Janeiro the perfect place to witness the ultimate combat sports spectacle.
On May 11th 2019, inside Rio de Janeiro's Olympic Arena, Brazilian strawweight fighter Jéssica Andrade defeated Rose Namajunas at UFC 237 in front of an adoring and rapturous home crowd to become the 14th Brazilian UFC Champion in the short history of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
In the co-main event, legendary Brazilian fighter Anderson 'The Spider' Silva lost by technical knockout and the chanting crowd was desperate to celebrate a Brazilian victory in the final fight of the evening.
In a performance that elevated her onto the world stage Jéssica Andrade knocked out Rose Namajunas with a vicious slam in the second round and in the process became the new queen of Brazilian combat sports.
What separates Rio De Janeiro is the way in which fans celebrate their Brazilian fighters with love and admiration, while displaying hostility to anyone brave enough to challenge a Brazilian fighter as they walk into the cage.
Successful Brazilian fighters become superstars in Rio De Janeiro and one upcoming fighter who is quickly becoming their latest icon is Brazilian born UFC fighter Johnny Walker.
Walker has knocked out his last three opponents with flashy capoeira inspired flying kicks and spinning punches and is now being touted as a future UFC champion.
His daredevil style of fighting has made him the sport’s newest star and his willingness to capitalize on risky moves during fights has won him the attention of global poker brand PokerStars, who signalled his status as Brazil’s latest fighting superstar by announcing him as a new brand ambassador at UFC 237.
capoeira - dancing or fighting?
A key foundation in the development of martial arts in Rio de Janeiro was the creation of capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian martial art developed by African slaves as a self-defense tool in the 16th century.
By also combining dance and music it allowed them to disguise their training in what was a banned practice for slaves at the time. Fast forward to the modern day and capoeira is known throughout the world for it's a unique combination of music, dance and acrobatic kicks, with many of Brazil’s most famous fighters having trained in capoeira in their youth.
Arguably the greatest Brazilian fighter of all time, Anderson 'The Spider" Silva, trained in capoeira throughout his childhood and achieved the distinction of yellow belt prior to becoming the most successful UFC middleweight of all time.
Head down to Copacabana or Ipanema beach in Rio De Janeiro and it’s likely you’ll witness capoeira being practiced on the sand, or in any number of capoeira schools throughout the city where both adult and child classes keep the tradition alive and visitors are encouraged to sample the art.
the olympic arena
Providing the ultimate venue for a night of combat sports is Rio De Janeiro’s Olympic Arena which hosted a sell-out crowd for UFC 237. The venue has now hosted eight different UFC events and is renowned in the fight world for its incredible atmosphere thanks to the passion of local fight fans.
This thrilling atmosphere even caught the attention of the NBA who used the arena to host a game between the Chicago Bulls and the Washington Wizards.
The arena has also become Brazil’s premier concert destination, with stars such as Beyonce, Ed Sheeran, Selena Gomez and Ariana Grande all performing sell-out shows on its famed stages.
sample the samba
Following a night of high-octane martial arts action, Rio De Janeiro’s legendary Lapa district offers the perfect opportunity to dance the night away in any one of its famed samba bars.
The music scene made famous through Rio De Janeiro’s annual carnival originated in the city and has become a key part of Brazil’s national identity.
Lapa offers a taste of authentic Brazilian nightlife with a number of bars and clubs pumping out samba every night of the week.
Rio De Janeiro is home to Copacabana beach, perhaps the most famous beach in the world thanks to its golden shores and breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains.
The fighting spirit of the city is clear to see when you visit Copacabana, with capoeira classes and demonstrations often taking place alongside local fighters jogging along the beach.
Even the sand art along Copacabana features UFC inspired pieces.
After a night of wild combat sports action, there’s no better place to unwind and enjoy the spectacular views of the city.
By Joe Sawyer