Wanderlei Silva’s two hands couldn’t carry the sentiments of a nation

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Rich Franklin vs Wanderlei Silva UFC 147 BH Inovafoto

Wanderlei launches an assault on Rich Franklin in the main event at UFC 147 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Photo: Inovafoto/UFC publicity

By Mauro Ellovitch

I woke up on Sunday overcome with sadness. That tightening in the chest, that groan in the stomach, that bitter taste in the throat. Nothing could get my spirits up. And to think that I had so much to say about UFC 147.

I could write about the dense crowd that packed the gymnasium, turning a blind eye to all the naysaying in the lead-up to the event. Having been at UFC Rio and this latest UFC, in Belo Horizonte, I could write about all the notable differences between the Rio crowd and Minas Gerais crowd (the former a lot more lively and heated, the latter more focused and respectful—especially when it came to the American fighters on the card). The reactions from Thiago “Bodão” and Marcos “Vina” would yield a few good lines. The unbelievable battle between Cezar “Mutante” and Sérgio was worth a chronicle on its own. Just as the public’s “woe” about Vitor Belfort was. But none of that cheered me up on that overcast Sunday morning. I was inconsolable.

Ever since it was announced that Belo Horizonte would host UFC 147, I was anxious to see Wanderlei Silva the legend fight in “my back yard.” I’m from São Paulo but have been a resident of Minas Gerais for the past seven years. I’ve lived in a number of regions in this gigantic state and learned to love it as my home. Early in the week leading up to June 23, I could hardly contain my anxiousness to be near the octagon and witness “The Axe Murderer” chopping down Rich Franklin with his potent knees. Here, on Minas soil!

The distressing outcome of the main event, with Wanderlei losing, took the shine off the event I’d awaited so eagerly. The immortal son of the state of Minas Carlos Drummond de Andrade once said, “I have but two hands and the sentiments of the world.” Wand’s s two hands weren’t enough to carry the weight of the nation’s sentiments. He fought, tried, hit, got hit, tired. And it wasn’t enough for him to win.

My friends called me to ask about the fight and I caught myself discussing unreal hypotheses. “What if the second round had gone on another 30 seconds?” “And if that counterstrike had found its mark in the last round?” That’s right. I was suffering from “Fan whose Team Lost Syndrome.”

Anyone out there who cheers for a team (be it MMA, soccer, volleyball, hand shuttlecock) knows what I’m talking about. I’ve been in that mood before, like when São Paulo Football Club lost the final of the 1994 Libertadores Cup, for example.

We felt the defeat of our object as fans as though we ourselves had lost. We play and replay it over in our heads and ask what could have gone differently. For a true MMA fan from way back, watching Wanderlei Silva lose in the Mineirinho Gymnasium was akin to watching the Brazilian national soccer team lose the 1950 World Cup final in Maracanã Stadium.

But that’s what sport and life is made of. Winning and losing. Celebrating and suffering. And mainly, continuing to cheer. I didn’t stop rooting for São Paulo soccer team, nor for the Brazilian national team, and I won’t stop when it comes to Wanderlei Silva. He will always be an idol and a reference in the sport because he has shown unmatched courage.

That’s why I’ll leave it to Guimarães Rosa, Minas Gerais’ greatest author, to conclude for me a lot better than I could do myself: “The course of life wraps everything up. That’s how life is: it goes hot and cold, tightens and loosens, goes calm and then gets restless. What it wants from us is courage.”

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