Co-promoter Bebeo Duarte stands in front of the venue that will host Jungle Fight 33. | Photo: M. Alonso
Anyone who saw the acclaimed Brazilian film “City of God” could never have imagined that someday one of the most violent slums in Rio de Janeiro would play host to a mixed martial arts event under the Jungle Fight promotion’s banner.
In actuality, until roughly a year ago, it would not have been possible, as Cidade de Deus was a very similar place to what was shown in the movie. However, since Rio de Janeiro’s governor launched the Unidade de Policia Pacificadora project -- which called for sending special police units into crime-riddled areas -- 16 slums in the city have been taken out of the hands of drug dealers, and the situation has changed completely. The governor has provided his support to any entertainment event willing to touch down in slums once dominated by the dealers.
The growth in popularity of MMA in Brazil led Jungle Fight promoter Wallid Ismail to the idea of producing Jungle Fight shows in all slums involved in the UPP project. The first such event, Jungle Fight 33, will take place this Saturday in Cidade de Deus.
“Man, we are really motivated by these shows. I’m really impressed with the way the people in Cidade de Deus embraces the event. That’s why we decided to come up with a contest to choose a ring girl from the community,” said co-promoter Bebeo Duarte, Ismail’s right-hand man.
According to Duarte, Cidade de Deus will have two representatives on the seven-fight Jungle Fight 33 card, as Atila Lourenco and Evandro CDD make their professional debuts. Alexandre Pimentel will fight Diego Arturo Huerto Jauregui for the interim lightweight belt in the main event. Meanwhile, Iliarde Sabino Belo dos Santos will meet Eduardo Felipe, and Rafael Miranda will face Wand Fight Team representative Peter Simone.
Duarte showed Sherdog.com the venue where the event will take place, right in front of UPP headquarters.
“A few years ago, this place was the headquarters of the drug dealers,” said Duarte, who guaranteed that, in 2012, Jungle Fight will promote shows in each of the 16 communities that received the UPP treatment. “Now, there is no violence here anymore. Once, this court was the only big place in the slum with a roof, so we decided to use it, but the area is not that big.
“We can fit, at most, 2,500 people in here; that’s why we are requesting that fans watch the show on the Combat channel, as it will be broadcast live,” he added. “We want to provide the people from City of God with the opportunity to see the show at home.”
Duarte also talked about the spread of MMA in the communities of Rio.
“Ten years ago, vale tudo was practiced by middle class people who could train jiu-jitsu or muay Thai,” he said. “Today, this reality has changed. If you look around, most fighters from this new generation come from slums.”