“Ivan Trindade, reporter for GRACIEMAG – you’re on the list? You sure you got your press pass?” asked the receptionist.
“Yeah, I put in for my press pass but received two e-mails in response – one saying my request had been accepted, and shortly after, another saying the opposite.”
From the look of it, the second email was right.
But since the presser was in Rio, he wrangled the red bracelet giving him access.
On the inside, a classic scene.
Impeccable production, heavyweight press members, and almost Swiss punctuality.
At 1:09 pm, Vitor Belfort entered the hall followed by featherweight champ José Aldo, UFC president Dana White, as well as Chad Mendes and Anthony Johnson.
Dana White started out by saying tickets would go on sale starting at 11:30 pm this Wednesday and advised, “Better hurry, the they sell out quick.”
Nothing too remarkable happened at the presser – no tumult, no poignant questions.
José Aldo guaranteed that Chad Mendes training with Urijah Faber (who fought and lost to the Brazilian) doesn’t help his opponent one bit: “They’re two different fights.”
Chad thinks otherwise: “Urijah is showing me the paths to victory. I hope to make the most of the chance their giving me.”
Vitor Belfort was enthusiastic about his time training with Georges Saint-Pierre and team: “It was really worthwhile, and I hope more and more of these exchanges between MMA stars happen. We have to meet up in the octagon as much as we do in the gym.”
Belfort’s opponent, Anthony Johnson, was respectful in his comments: “It’s an honor to fight in Brazil, the home of MMA. Belfort is a great guy and great fighter.”
In the crowd, a mix of the specialized and general press.
Hence questions like, “Chad Mendes, you appeared on Twitter wearing a Vasco jersey,and José Aldo is a rubro-negro [Flamengo] fanatic. Are you aware of the rivalry between the two clubs?”
The American was quick to smooth things over but left a provocation hanging in the air: “That photo was taken well before the fight was made. The jersey belongs to my Jiu-Jitsu coach, who’s crazy about Vasco. I didn’t want to offend anyone, but I watched some Vasco games and like the team. Yes, I might root for them.”
Or, to Dana White, “Do you know Galvão Bueno, the Globo commentator?
The UFC kingpin let them down, “I haven’t a clue who he is.”
A prankster in the audience added, “É do Brasilll!” imitating the talking head’s trademark phrase.
Another question had to do with how the Brazilians felt fighting at home.
“I’ve fought in Rio before and it’s always exciting, but this time I’ll be on the big stage. For sure my thoughts will return to the early days, when I first arrived here in Rio,” replied José Aldo.
A Rio de Janeiro native, Befort was thankful: “After so many years, it’s a privilege to fight in Rio. I promise to do my best.”
The microphone made the rounds between reporters until I decided to put in a question,, capitalizing on how no one else touched on the subject.
“Dana, there are two fighters head and shoulder above their divisions – Jon Jones and Anderson Silva. When will we get to see them face off? Is the UFC thinking about that matchup?”
The UFC top dog smiled and faltered before responding: “Well, Anderson and Jones still have some things to do first. Besides that, Anderson has been reluctant to move up to light heavyweight. But we always put together the fights fans want to see, and this one will be no different. I just don’t know when it will happen.”
And the subject shot off in a different direction.
Dana became serious again and announced: “TUF Brazil kicks off on March 25, 2012 and will air every Sunday on Globo. The coaches of the two teams are Wanderlei Silva and Vitor Belfort. In the USA, TUF is the reality show that’s been on the air the longest. Brazil will be stoked to have its own TUF.”
A video with Portuguese narration introduced the show.
When the lights came back on, there were Wand and Belfort.
Dana continued: “From here we’re going to São Paulo for the selection process. We see over 400 guys and test their skills as fighters, check their backgrounds and pick the personalities that would be the most attractive on television,” he explained.
After another round of the room the microphone was back in my hand: “Wand and Belfort, you are rivals and will now face each other as coaches. What makes each of you a better coach than the other?” I said in provocation.
The two didn’t falter, though.
“I’m not thinking about that. I just want to be able to pass on my experience as a fighter to new athletes. I’m going to teach them what it is to want to win, how to deal with injury, training, victory and defeat,” mused a mellow Wand, almost causing us to forget his nickname, “The Axe Murderer”.
Belfa was even more diplomatic: “My concern is to give it my best shot. I’ll be there body, soul and spirit.”
Wrapping up, Dana guaranteed the two will face off in the show’s grand finale.