Jailton Almeida and Derrick Lewis facing off at the ceremonial weigh-in From @UFC on X

UFC and Brazil intersect for the second time this year on Saturday (Nov. 4) and for the thirty-ninth time in history with a fight night featuring local idol Jailton Almeida, but the history between Mixed Martial Arts, the UFC and Brazil goes deeper than that.

Almeida, who is undefeated in the UFC, will face off against the American UFC knock-out record holder Derrick Lewis at Sao Paulo's Ibirapuera Arena.

The betting favorite is Almeida, who came off a strong first-round submission win in May against Jairzinho Rozenstruik. Lewis is also coming off a strong win in July against Marcos Rogerio De Lima, in which Lewis started the fight with a knee to De Lima's head, knocking him down and resulting in a knock-out win in 33 seconds. Lewis has won his last four matches via knock-out, while Almeida has mixed wins via submission and knockout.

Due to his winning streak, Almeida has the edge, winning his five fights in the UFC and only ever losing twice in his pro career --outside the top MMA flight-- out of 21 fights. Before his recent win, Lewis lost four matches and he now has a record of 27 wins and 11 losses. Looking at stats, Almeida has lost about 10 percent of his pro fights, while Lewis has lost 40 percent, but the American fighter has fought 55 percent more fights than his Brazilian contender.

Diego Ribas, a Brazilian journalist who's covered MMA for over ten years and is currently an MMA columnist for Universo Online, predicts the fight will end in a familiar fashion for Almeida.

"I believe Almeida will take Lewis down and choke him, as he's been doing to pretty much everyone so far," Ribas said.

What's up with Brazil and MMA?

Ribas spoke with The Latin Times on why Brazil is an MMA powerhouse, the culture around martial arts in his nation, and how the Brazilian Gracie family started a movement.

"Combat sports are a part of the Brazilian DNA. It's natural for Brazilians to find a path to become professional athletes in MMA, especially because we have great boxing and Muay Thai gyms, and Brazil is the best place to learn jiu-jitsu," Ribas said. "So, with a solid foundation in many martial arts, national events, and the opportunity to make money fighting internationally, there are a huge number of young fighters who attempt to follow their dreams. Natural selection finds the most talented to shine on the world's biggest stages."

Ribas says that the origins of Brazilian MMA come from Vale-Tudo –Everything Goes, created by the Gracie family around 80 years ago in Brazil. Ribas said Vale-Tudo was made to prove how efficient Gracie jiu-jitsu was. He said the Gracie family would challenge masters of other martial arts to basically no-rules matches with no time limit, no weight class, and no gloves.

Gracie jiu-jitsu was created by Helio Gracie and his brothers Oswaldo, Gastao Jr, George and Carlos Gracie, working off of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, which worked off of the original Japanese jiu-jitsu.

Ribas said years later, Rorion Gracie, went to the U.S. and tried to replicate what his dad did in Brazil but relabeled it.

"Rorion Gracie tried to do the same in the US and created the UFC in 1993," Ribas said. "He invited one of his younger brothers to compete. That brother was Royce Gracie, and the rest is history." UFC 1 was a tournament that Royce Gracie won. He then went on to become the first UFC Hall of Famer in 2003, long after the Gracies were no longer owners of the UFC.

How popular are MMA and Brazilian jiu-jitsu in Brazil?

Ribas said that as of today, the most popular martial art in Brazil is jiu-jitsu, and since Helio Gracie created Gracie jiu-jitsu, this discipline has been part of their culture. "Helio, Royce's father, was a superstar in Brazil in the 40s and 50s after many vale-tudo victories. So the sport became popular and reached many people," Ribas said.

Ribas said it's common for kids to start training in a specific martial art, such as jiu-jitsu, judo or striking, and then as they get older, they move on to train MMA. He said after finding some success in MMA, those kids will go on to pursue a career in the sport to make more money than they would in other sports.

Regarding why there are many Brazilians in the UFC, Ribas said a mix of good coaches, a strong fan base and other factors have created an avenue to bring attention to fighters from the country.

"When you look at every MMA champion's corner, you often see a Brazilian jiu-jitsu coach or a training partner. We have many practitioners, coaches, gyms, and events," Ribas said. "It's only natural to have a good number of really good fighters in all the biggest leagues, not just the UFC. In addition, the history of former champions and the solid fan base in Brazil make it easier to bring attention to any new prospect," Ribas said.

© 2024 Latin Times. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.