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 local hooligans.”
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 Sherdog.com.
"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 partners."