Mixed Martial Arts Nation

Also called Vale Tudo, Mixed Martial Arts is a full contact sport that has gained popularity all over the world, and Brazil is one of the countries that has exported more talent in this discipline.  

Imagine that you are going to a rock concert. You are among hundreds of fans, waiting as well for your favorite band. There are colorful lights everywhere and people shouting the names of the band members. You can feel the peoples’ expectation. You can smell the adrenaline that joined everyone to be in the same place and at the same time, with no other intention than just have the greatest night of all. The stage is ready, waiting for the performers to come up and rock the world of hundreds of people. But… Wait a minute! You are not in a rock show (it feels like it, though). You are at a competition where the performers are fighters and their instruments are gloves and head gears. Yes! They are about to make music with punches, strikes and wrestling.

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It felt as if you were part of either “Rocky” (with all of the sequels) or “Bloodsport” (1986) of Jean-Claude van Damme. There was Knock Outs (KO), lot of kicks and punches and even blood. Unless Rocky Balboa these athletes are tougher, meaner and for real. Most of the fighters are very young, and for some of them this was their first fight in an event that is considered by many as “The Pool” that will launch promising and gifted fighters to national and even international events, like Ultimate Fight Championship (UFC), in the United States.

If you believe that soccer is Brazil’s National Sport, then that idea should be reinvented because Brazil is, not only considered as Muay Thay’s international hub – after Thailand – but also as Mixed Martial Arts’ (MMA) birthplace. From this gigantic nation, and especially from the southern city of Curitiba, have emerged internationally renowned Muay Thay and MMA fighters like Anderson Silva and Mauricio Rua (aka Shogun), who are also ranked as the Top 5 fighters worldwide.

Our friend, the fighter

Leonardo Bacarim looks like any other guy from Curitiba: nice, shy and quiet; you can easily be fooled by his pleasant smile and polite manners. However, when he was on the ring just before the fight, he looked like he was going to unleash a very furious personality. And he did. Leonardo won a landslide victory in the first round.

His fight didn’t last much, may be one minute or less than that. His opponent had to face a tough, strong and wild fighter. It was exiting, amazing and incredible to witness how in less than one minute everything was over. He waited through the pain and exhausted his opponent with powerful wrestling. It was Leonardo’s conquest.

Although it was amateur competition, it felt like it was much more. Leonardo told me the “hard train” that he went through for several months, and “the enormous amount of support from the teammates to make it through”. But he didn’t choose MMA as just a hobby. The stress from work was the main reason why he started to practice this full contact sport, and with the previous experience he had form Muay Thay and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (he has practiced martial arts since his teenage years), it was a smooth transition.

He doesn’t know yet whether he will follow or not a professional career as a martial arts athlete; however I have no doubt that, if he does, he definitely will be very successful in Brazil, and who knows, maybe abroad, too.

People used to think that luck is somehow involved in a sports competition. I believe so to, but in a small amount. Talent, hard train and the loyal support of the team are the key players in the victory or failure of the fight.