Brazilian singer Anitta is a megastar with nearly 6.5 billion views on YouTube and more than 60 million followers on Instagram, and all that success made UFC strawweight Maria Oliveira an online sensation for a minute in Brazil.
Anitta decided to celebrate her 29th birthday in a private party in Las Vegas this past April. Oliveira, who happens to live in the city, simply had to try crashing it. Problem is, Anitta never revealed the exact location of the party, and only a short list of 220 guests, handpicked by Anitta herself, would be allowed inside the venue.
Oliveira and a friend somehow discovered the night club’s name, but only Oliveira managed to sneak in. It didn’t last long for Anitta to realize that Oliveira wasn’t on her list, but felt such a good vibe coming from the MMA fighter she decided to leave her be.
Oliveira partied all night long, and Anitta posted several videos on Instagram the next morning trying to find out who that party crasher was, so she could befriend her. A few minutes after Anitta found Oliveira’s Instagram page and posted her handle, the UFC strawweight gained more than 100,000 followers.
“It’s all new to me,” Oliveira said on this week’s episode of MMA Fighting podcast Trocação Franca. “I have to separate the life of the athlete and the digital influencer. It’s funny for me to even say that [laughs]. I’ve always wanted that, and now I can’t do both. I don’t post as much as people want me to.”
Every interaction Oliveira has now brings the same reaction, “Oh my God, Anitta follows you on Instagram!” Another good thing that came from this sudden success was that the UFC has finally booked her a fight after nearly six months of waiting, matching her up against Gloria de Paula at UFC Austin, set for Saturday night at the Moody Center.
“I had a fight booked and gained some followers, and all that attention is good not only for me, but for the UFC as well,” said Oliveira, who made extra cash with occasional sponsorship deals sine then. “I still keep in touch with her, she came to Vegas and invited me to her show. I went to her hotel and saw her get dressed, and then went to her show and back to the hotel with her.”
Oliveira laments the fact she’s not “allowed” to walk out to “Show das Poderosas”, Anitta’s first hit from 2013, the No. 1 song that year in most radio stations in Brazil, since her team PRVT has a rule that all fighters must walk out to the team’s theme song, “PRVT é hora de vencer”, by Facção 288.
“The UFC invited [Anitta] to my fight but she’s very busy,” Oliveira said. “She’s also starting a tour now. It would be a dream [to walk out to the octagon with her], but let’s try again next time [laughs].”
The 25-year-old fighter said she was also invited to be part of “Ilha Record” reality show in Brazil, but would have to join the program earlier this month. She’s hoping to be part of “Big Brother Brasil” one day, too. For now, her only goal is to score her first octagon victory by beating Gloria de Paula in Texas.
Oliveira said she’s a well-rounded fighter now compared to her previous bouts, and taking her to the ground doesn’t mean the fight is over. Living in Las Vegas, and working at the UFC Performance Institute with the likes of Jessica Andrade, has also made her more professional as an athlete, she said.
Oliveira’s first night in the octagon went down in August 2018, losing to Marina Rodriguez at Dana White’s Contender Series. She quit on the feet, and now admits she only agreed to the bout for a chance to travel to Las Vegas.
“When you leave the favela and get a passport and travels, it’s all new for you,” Oliveira said. “I lived in Niterói and my family lived in Sao João de Meriti, and I went to see my family every weekend and drank, but I don’t do that anymore. It’s completely different now.
“[The UFC PI] is the Disneyland for athletes. I’ve lost many nights of sleep in the past. If I has this mindset when I lost my [UFC debut], it would have been completely different. I never worked hard, I always had talent. But a hard-working athlete beats the talented. There’s no point being talented if you don’t train hard, and that’s who I was for a long time.”