BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil -- The Brazilian MMA community has long
argued that its sport is safer than soccer, given the history of
Brazilian futebol rivalries and violence. Saturday night in Belo
Horizonte, that violence tragically bled indirectly into MMA.
While the city's Chevrolet Hall played host to the
third edition of Brazil Fight, an alleged brawl between
supporters of rival Belo Horizonte-based soccer clubs Atletico
Mineiro and Cruzeiro broke outside the venue, leaving one man dead
and two others hospitalized.
19-year-old Otavio Fernandes died Saturday night due to sustained
head trauma after he was allegedly beaten with an iron bar by
members of Atletico Mineiro fan group Galoucura. Flavio Celso da
Silva, 35, and Rodrigo Marques, 39, were also sent to the hospital
with non-life threatening injuries.
According to eyewitness accounts of the full-scale street fight
that erupted, the much larger Galoucura group overwhelmed the
Cruzeiro fans, attacking them with iron bars. The fight is
estimated to have only lasted a few minutes, but blood was still
visible on the ground outside Chevrolet Hall on Sunday morning.
Inside, Brazil Fight 3 continued without a hitch. No one inside the
venue had any knowledge of the brawl until after the event ended,
when event producer Otavio "Tata" Duarte was asked to come to the
local police department for a deposition.
"They politely invited me to the police office, but when I got
there, they started to try to make some relationship between the
event and what happened," Duarte told Sherdog.com. "I stayed from
midnight until 5 a.m. explaining that we had no relationship with
Duarte, who also promotes Rio de Janeiro-based promotion Watch
Out Combat Show, didn't even have time to pay any of the 18
fighters who fought on the Brazil Fight 3 card before he was swept
away to give his statement.
"I was lucky because the local police chief was at the event. He
could see that the audience was composed of family people, women
and we had not even a single confrontation inside, because I had 60
security guards taking care of the place," Duarte emphasized. "If a
group of crazy soccer fans fought in the street, 100 meters away
from my event, the responsibility is the Minas Gerais state
police's, not mine."
Duarte's partner, Philip Lima, also commented on the situation to
"The fighters and their fans who cheer for Cruzeiro and Atletico
Mineiro have already participated in our two previous events and we
had no problems. All we can say is that the event was a huge
success and we seriously lament what happened and hope the police
can identify and catch the guilty parties."
The brawl had unfortunately coincidental timing. MMA in Brazil
still continues to battle public perceptions of violence and
hooliganism, which has kept potentially lucrative sponsors away
from local events. With Brazil Fight 3, the promotion welcomed the
sponsorship of Coca-Cola and Domino's Pizza, two extravagant
sponsors given the climate of Brazilian MMA.
"The marketing director of Coca-Cola was totally amazed by the
show. He saw that our audience was pretty much family people,
besides the athletes, who are totally identified with their new
product, the energy drink 'Gladiator,'" said Duarte. "It took so
long to attract a big company to support our sport; it would be
really absurd if soccer fanatics came here to scare our new