By Danny Jones, @Tidy_MMA on X
“I feel that Brazilian mixed martial arts has done so much for me and my family, and my life as a professional. I’m really looking forward to going back there and giving back to the mixed martial arts community of Brazil. Especially because right now, the amount of opportunities that are in Brazil are very minimal. And as you see now, you don’t see as many champion[s], or as many big names in Brazil. And it’s not because of a lack of talent. I think it’s because of a lack of opportunity. So I really am looking forward to taking the LFA down there and reviving Brazilian mixed martial arts”. – LFA CEO Ed Soares, speaking to journalist John Morgan (then of MMA Junkie) ahead of LFA’s inaugural Brazil event in July 2021.
Mixed martial arts’ premier developmental organization – LFA – has held thirteen events across four cities in Brazil, with four events in Rio de Janeiro (Rio de Janeiro), two events in Caraguatatuba (São Paulo), one event in Recife (Pernambuco), and six events in Cajamar (São Paulo). A further two Brazil-based events have also been announced: LFA 175 in Cajamar, São Paulo and LFA 179 in Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro.
Providing a platform to project the bountiful talent emerging out of Brazil, the exposure offered by LFA’s Brazilian ventures is ineffable. Courtesy of the LFA’s 2019 partnership with subscription-based streaming service UFC Fight Pass, which has since been extended through 2025, over 200 countries and territories currently have 24/7 access to all LFA events. Remarkably, Rio de Janeiro-based newspaper O Dia reported in December 2023 that a global audience of 100 million viewers (number is not verified by the LFA) watched coverage of LFA 154 , hosted in Cajamar, São Paulo – the largest audience of LFA’s then 173 events.
At the time of writing, twenty-two Brazilian athletes from LFA’s thirteen Brazilian-events have later signed with the UFC – either directly, or via Dana White’s Contender Series. In order of their appearance on a Brazilian LFA card, these athletes include Gabriella Fernandes, Luan Lacerda, Stephanie Luciano, Rodolfo Bellato, Ismael Bonfim, Gabriel Bonfim, Carlos Mota, Kaynan Kruschewsky, Rafael Estevam, Tamires Vidal, José Henrique Souza*, Bruna Brasil, Melquizael Costa, Kauê Fernandes, Julia Polastri, Luana Santos, Felipe dos Santos, Carlos Prates, Jean Matsumoto, Gabriel Santos, Lucas Rocha, and André Lima.
Of course, the Brazilian LFA events are not exclusively reserved for Brazilian athletes. Four non-Brazilian athletes have also competed on Brazilian LFA cards, including Argentina’s Rodrigo Roldan and Brenda Gottig, Cuba’s Geovanis Palacios, and Peru’s Jose Ochoa.
It’s not just the exposure offered by LFA, however, that has benefited the athletes. Speaking with O Dia last month, Rafael Feijão – Vice President of LFA South America – highlighted the attention to detail given to athlete care. Athletes receive full attire from Venum, and glasses from Fuel. They are chauffeured from the airport when arriving for events. Optimised nutrition is provisioned for athletes to help recover from weight cutting. The week of competition is structured similar to that of the UFC, to help prepare those athletes who progress from LFA.
Crucially, all LFA events in Brazil are sanctioned by Comissão Atlética Brasileira de MMA (CABMMA). All athletes must complete, and pass, a litany of medical examinations to gain a licence from the commission. Showcasing the commission’s attentiveness to athlete safety, CABMMA’s requirement for all athletes to receive a brain scan meant two brain aneurysms were identified in returning LFA athlete Rafael Barbosa, ahead of his main-event Featherweight Championship bout against Jonas Bilharinho at LFA 126 in Rio de Janeiro. Deemed unsafe to compete at LFA 126, Barbosa later underwent major – and potentially lifesaving – surgery.
The importance of LFA’s Brazilian venture cannot be overstated. With their fighter first philosophy, LFA has orchestrated exhilarating events with spoils of breath-taking bouts that are universally and unanimously revered, whilst ensuring the quality treatment of their athletes.
For all that LFA has done, and will continue to do, for its athletes and fans alike, obrigado.
Image credit to Prefeitura de Cajamar (on cajamar.sp.gov.br)
*UFC signed José Henrique Souza in March 2023. However, Souza later tested positive for 19-norandrosterone and 19-noretiocholanolone in an out-of-competition sample. Suspended by USADA for two years, Souza is ineligible to compete for UFC until March 8th 2025.