The UFC officially announced its return to Fortaleza back in November 2018, but had no idea that the state of Ceara, which Fortaleza is the capital of, would be facing a historic wave of violence in 2019.
It all started on Jan. 2, when governor Camilo Santana appointed Luis Mauro Albuquerque as the secretary of the newly-founded penitentiary administration in Ceara. Albuquerque promised a harder stance on security, which prompted an immediate reaction from members of several crime gangs from inside prisons, ordering attacks to public buildings, police officers and anything else they could “burn down.”
Over the past 14 days, police registered more than 200 attacks in 46 of the 184 cities in the state of Ceara, including Fortaleza. More than half of those attacks (120) happened between January 3-5. Nearly 400 people have been arrested in two weeks.
According to Brazilian news outlet G1, criminals attacked — using bombs or guns — 138 vehicles, 51 public buildings, 13 bridges and energy towers, and 10 banks. Minister of Justice Sergio Moro sent hundreds of National Public Security Force officers to the region to help control the situation.
Facing the situation is the Ultimate Fighting Championship, scheduled to return to Fortaleza on Feb. 2 with a Fight Night card headlined by a rematch between Raphael Assuncao and Marlon Moraes and former featherweight champion Jose Aldo co-headlining the show opposite Renato Moicano.
After making tough decisions in December, cancelling UFC 233 and transferring UFC 232 from Las Vegas to California on days’ notice, the promotion discussed moving the event from Fortaleza, multiple sources told MMA Fighting. In the end, the promotion opted to go on as planned and will have the event take place in the capital of Ceara.
It remains to be seen if the wave of violence will be under control by then, but the Secretary of Sports and Youth of Ceara told MMA Fighting in a statement that the government will double the security around the Centro de Formação Olímpica (CFO) on fight night.
CFO, which also hosts the ceremonial weigh-ins on Feb. 1, is a complex built ahead of the 2016 Olympic Games. Hundreds of officers from the National Public Security Force that flew to Fortaleza are staying in one of the buildings, but the Secretary of Sports and Youth of Ceara told MMA Fighting that it will not affect the event, booked for the main arena.
The UFC did not respond a request for comment. It’s still unclear if the company will reinforce their security protocols for all fight week events, like the open workout session at a local mall on Wednesday, and around the host hotel during all fight week, but some fighters told MMA Fighting they have safety concerns.