Brazilian Fighters Basking in Warm Reception, but Foreigners Resigned to Boos

Anderson Silva squares off with Yushin Okami at the UFC 134 weigh-ins.RIO DE JANEIRO -- The good news for the Americans on the UFC 134 fight card is that at least one of them got through the pre-fight weigh-ins on Friday without getting booed. That would be Ian Loveland, who fights Canadian Yves Jabouin in the first bout of the night, also known as the only fight on the card that doesn't feature at least one Brazilian.

When Loveland and Jabouin stepped on the scales, the crowd at the HSBC Arena could hardly be bothered to pay attention, which, in a way, let both fighters off the hook. The other foreigners on the card weren't so lucky.

"Vai morrer! Vai morrer!" the crowd chanted at American fighters like Dan Miller, Brendan Schaub, and Forrest Griffin. Translation: You're going to die.

Say what you will about this crowd's sensitivity, but you can't knock their passion.




Not that this reception should surprise any of the non-Brazilian fighters. When you're fighting someone like Mauricio "Shogun" Rua or Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in Rio, and you're a gringo from the USA, you can't exactly expect a warm reception.

As Griffin put it at Thursday's press conference when it was suggested that he, Schaub, and Yushin Okami would have the entire world against them on Saturday night: "It's not the whole world; it's just Brazil."

But for many of the Brazilian fighters, facing off against a series of foreigners in their own backyard in the first UFC event in Rio is a little like taking on the rest of the world, or at least taking on the responsibility for an entire nation, as Anderson Silva explained.

"It's like Brazil vs. Argentina in Macarana Stadium," he said, putting it in soccer terms any Brazilian would understand. As he added later, "A lot of idols come and go, but we're fighting to reach our place."

The Brazilians on the card certainly had the fans at the weigh-ins firmly behind them, even if the loudest boos were saved for Chael Sonnen, who only appeared via the giant video screen during one of the pre-fight promo packages.

The most half-hearted boos? Those were aimed at Bulgarian Stanislov Nedkov and Englishman Ross Pearson, who are slated to take on Brazilians Luiz Cane and Edson Barboza, respectively.

But even then, it felt more like a perfunctory habit than anything else. Pearson very nearly managed to turn the crowd around by stepping off the scale and rehydrating with help from a coconut and a straw. At least to some degree, it worked. The boos died down, and the crowd lost the urge to inform him of his impending death.

Well played, Mr. Pearson. It might take slightly more to bring about a change of heart toward Sonnen, however.

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