Inside the UFC Rio press conference

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Photos: UFC

Outside the Copacabana Palace hotel, fans waited for the biggest stars in MMA to make their way out. Part of the countdown to UFC Rio, this Thursday’s press conference brought the latest statements from the stars. And everybody’s excitement was clear, especially from those experiencing the event for the first time, seeing as the UFC hasn’t had a show in Brazil in 13 years.

It was also a chance for the foreigners to get to know Rio, a city garnering curiosity throughout the planet. American journalist Ariel Helwani, one of the most familiar faces covering MMA, had the chance to visit the Christ statue with Royce Gracie and Junior Cigano, as well as query the Brazilian people as to their opinion of Chael Sonnen (watch the amusing video here), who hasn’t shown his face yet.

Regardless, lots of chatter filled the air at the Crystal Room at the hotel while the press awaited the stars for interviews. Who’ll beat who? Which will be the big surprise of the event? Someone from Minotauro’s crew said: “He’s running on all cylinders, he’ll fight well.” Amid all that, Pedro Rizzo went almost unnoticed. He headed straight for the snack table, where he greeted some closer acquaintances.

Anderson Silva

Minutes later, everyone gathered in the room next door witnessed Dana White, the president of the UFC, make his entrance accompanied by Anderson, Yushin Okami, Brendan Schaub, Minotauro, Maurício Shogun and Forrest Griffin. Behind the scenes, aces like Royce, Belfort, Cigano and José Aldo also watched on.

“Every new market brings new challenges and difficulties, but doing business in Rio has been really good. We want to continue,” said White, who is masterful in his command of a press conference. “Everyone dreams of coming to Rio, it’s a worldwide tourist destination these days,” he added.

Whoa, a minute of silence… “Where’s the Japanese translator?” joked White, not understanding a thing a reporter from Japan asked him.

“The UFC will be able to make Cariocas and Brazilians change their heroes,” said Anderson Silva, who made a point of putting things in perspective: “Pelé and Senna are beyond comparison.”

Minota and Brendan

Outside the hotel, a Mercedez Benz awaited one of the stars of the show. Minotauro was applauded as he made his way to it, surrounded by dozens of fans. Prior to that:

“I’ve had 40 fights. I’m excited to fight before my father and daughter, but I don’t take it as pressure but as incentive. What motivates me to train is being around the best fighters in Brazil,” was Mino’s response to the question sent in by reader Ricardo. But Brendan Schaub, Minotauro’s opponent, had his response:

“My master, Amal Easton, got me ready in Jiu-Jitsu with everything I need to win. I love Jiu-Jitsu and I hope to win using it.

Forrest Griffin

“On facing Shogun in Rio, Forrest quipped: “It’s not everybody against me, just the whole city of Rio,” to laughter all around.

Without getting embroiled in controversy or rivalries, the fighters made their way out one by one. The mood was calm. Who knows, maybe at the Friday weigh-ins things will heat up? One thing is for sure, the HSMC will go off come Saturday night. May the best man win.

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