There has been no secret made of the fact that some of the brightest stars competing in the UFC are Brazilian. However, the UFC is yet to truly tap into the Latin American market as it would have expected, as that is the only nation from the continent that has been represented at the highest possible level. According to DrApuestas.com, a Latin American betting website, MMA is not one of the region’s favorite sports for betting or watching. It was believed that UFC was targeting a massive breakthrough in the demographic, just as it had in the Asian market, but the lack of Latin American star power has certainly had a detrimental effect on the moves that the UFC has tried to make. But, could this be something that changes in the near future, and what would need to happen in order for the UFC to truly break into the Latin American market?
It’s no surprise that the popularity of MMA, and in particular, the UFC, has boomed in Brazil. In no country in Latin America is MMA more popular than Brazil, and that has come after a number of years of Brazilian fighters enjoying dominant runs in the octagon. One of the biggest stars in the UFC that was representing Brazil throughout his career is Anderson Silva, who is still widely regarded as one of the most gifted MMA fighters of all time.
Silva was a former UFC Middleweight champion and fought against some of the biggest stars in the company, including Daniel Cormier, Israel Adesanya, and Nick Diaz. However, his departure from the UFC in 2020 left a gap in the market for another Brazilian or Latin American fighter to fill.
It would be hard to discuss Brazil’s MMA scene without mentioning Alex Pereira. His name has become synonymous with mixed martial arts in many forms. Pereira the current UFC middleweight champion and a light heavyweight champion in kickboxing. He holds both titles and manages both careers with incredible success.
Mexico Could Be The Untapped Market
If there is a Latin American country that could be best placed to see a boom in popularity, then it looks certain to be Mexico. The country has helped produce some of the most talented combat athletes throughout history, but the increased popularity of boxing always ensures that a career in MMA takes a back seat. There have been multiple reports linking huge Mexican stars with a bout in MMA companies, but the truth is that the money boasted in boxing far outweighs what a star could pick up if they take part in an MMA bout.
However, the UFC still has set its sights on making a breakthrough in Mexico, with six events having been held in the country to date. Five events have been held in Mexico City, while the other was held in Monterrey. That number still remains far lower than the 37 that have been staged in Brazil to date. It is also worth mentioning that a UFC event hasn’t been staged in Mexico since the UFC Fight Night event in September 2019, which was attended by 10,112 fans.
Legendary Mexican UFC Stars
Despite the popularity of MMA events being lower in Mexico, that doesn’t mean that there have been some huge stars representing the country throughout UFC history. Cain Valasquez was one of the first big Mexican names in the octagon, as he beat Brock Lesnar for the UFC Heavyweight title back in October 2010. Two of the most successful Mexicans in the UFC remain the Diaz brothers, Nick and Nate.
The latter still holds the record for the third-most UFC bonus awards in history. The long-term future of Mexican popularity in terms of MMA competition may rest on the shoulders of Yair Rodriguez. The 30-year-old is currently ranked as the second-best featherweight in the rankings, and he has impressed throughout his career in UFC.
Rodriguez has won 14 of his 18 professional bouts, and he produced a stunning display to bounce back to winning ways earlier this year, as he defeated Brian Ortega by TKO in July. That victory could put him firmly in the picture for a featherweight title bout, and that could be among the most popular UFC events in Mexican MMA history.
It would be a bit strange not to mention Brandon Moreno, one of Mexico’s biggest active mixed martial artists. Even though he has been in and out of the UFC a few times, he continues to be active across many disciplines of martial arts.
MMA still has a long way to go in Latin America to reach the popularity levels of sports such as soccer and boxing. However, the continued success of fighters from the countries is expected to play a big role, as this could ensure that new eyes are brought to the action on a weekly basis.
Victories for some of the biggest titles in UFC will have a massive impact on the viewing figures while holding more events in Latin America will also increase how closely fans are able to get to the action.