Brazilian and hardcore fans alike are getting a great match-up with Antonio “Minotauro” Nogueira and Fabricio Werdum as coaches of season two of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil. More importantly than having this show to build up to what should be a great fight, the coaches of the upcoming sophomore season will be a continued litmus test for the success of the UFC’s expansion outside of the states.

The UFC is continuing to expand its global market, and Brazil has been a welcoming home. Since 2011, the UFC has held four events in the country and posts solid attendance numbers each time out. While American audiences may be spoiled with a plethora of MMA, countries like Brazil are increasingly eager for the UFC’s offerings. This is reflected with the reported success of the first TUF Brazil with television audiences in the country. The official ratings of the show weren’t released by Globo, but UFC executives claim the show held an average rating of 10 million viewers.

While Brazilian fans will show up to UFC events, creating some of the most exciting atmospheres, and contributed to healthy television numbers for the first rendition of TUF Brazil, that enthusiasm doesn’t necessarily translate to large U.S. pay-per-view numbers for the UFC events hosted in the country. A title match with Brazilian UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo at UFC 142 in Rio de Janeiro only saw a little over 200,000 buys. The UFC’s latest trip, headlined by Brazilian superstar Anderson Silva, brought between 300,000 and 400,000 buys, and UFC 147 was the most abysmal of the modern UFC era events with well below 200,000 buys.

Silva and Aldo are a couple of Brazil’s most popular fighters, but their headlining efforts aren’t being bolstered by the growing outside markets at the moment.

We’ve seen TUF shows popping up in different countries around the world this year, and it will be an integral part of the UFC building fans worldwide. If Brazil had a TUF show with Aldo and Mendes as coaches before their UFC 142 match, then we would have seen bigger numbers in the PPV market.

Werdum and Nogueira are solid enough names to headline their own event, if it turns out that’s to be the case with their upcoming fight. Each fighter is well known to hardcore fans dating back to their tenures in Pride. Having them fight at the top of a card or possibly headlining in their home country on the biggest stage in MMA is an easy sell. However, hardcore fans aren’t a priority for the UFC’s growth, and given the less than stellar numbers for PPV’s from UFC events in Brazil, building an event around them is best suited for television.

It is hard to imagine that the event following this season will perform as poorly as UFC 147 did with the coaches and finalists fights from TUF Brazil 1. Certainly, injuries and changes to the card played a big part, but it showed fans aren’t willing to pay top dollar to watch that particular kind of offering.

The UFC is banking on catering to the Brazilian market by promoting its roster of Brazilian fighters. It’s not exactly a surprise. However, that doesn’t mean that this fight won’t impact the division outside of national pride. Even if it ends up holding the very least impact on the title picture, it is still a solid heavyweight fight worthy of anticipation. Seeing Nogueira and Werdum on television weekly will only elevate their profile. If the season delivers an awesome event, then that could influence their standing far more than the traditional approach.

Werdum and Nogueira both sit on top-10 lists for heavyweight and supply each other with the kind of quality opponent that leads to serious contendership. That applies more so for Werdum, who has gone 2-0 in the UFC, but lacks a big-name fight to announce his presence as a threat to the champion. He’s faced Nogueira before, but that was six years ago, a long time in the sport of MMA. Since then, Nogueira’s legend has been solidified and a win over him would be a major boost to Werdum’s profile.

Conversely, Nogueira hasn’t shown any consistency in the last four years, although he’s faced nothing but top guys in the UFC outside of Brendan Schaub. At 36, he is nearing the end of his career, and while a title shot is very unlikely, he remains an elite and dangerous heavyweight. Beating Werdum would do a lot for his relevancy and give him his first winning streak since 2008.

The anticipated fight between the two isn’t high stakes. Both fighters are outside contendership, though Werdum is on track to break in. But that shouldn’t be what’s important to fans who tune in. Instead, what’s important is that this will be a pure MMA fight, one that could end anywhere. Both men are known for their jiu-jitsu to a point where their striking is often underrated and overlooked. We’ve seen Werdum grow into a vicious Muay Thai practitioner, especially in his shellacking of Roy Nelson, and Nogueira has always thrown heavy leather with an uncanny ability to absorb punishment.

Granted, Werdum has already lost to the current champion and had a terrible showing against currently suspended UFC heavyweight contender Alistair Overeem in Strikeforce in 2011. And Nogueira is a glorified gatekeeper at this point in his career. Don’t expect to hear UFC President Dana White pushing either fighter more than he has to. Although they fall short in that aspect, their work on TUF Brazil is an opportunity to raise their own status while also helping to further the TUF expansion within Brazil and its television markets.

Photo: Fabricio Werdum (Sherdog)

About The Author

David Massey
Staff Writer

David Massey studied Humanities and Art History at the University of Central Oklahoma. He first found interest in MMA from the first TUF show and has been hooked ever since. He began posting on mmajunkie then submitting Sunday Junkie entries and that began his interest in writing about MMA. Through twitter David found other MMA enthusiasts and began contributing articles to marqueemma.com. He looks forward to growing as a writer and being a part of the sport he loves.