Postcard from Brazil: UFC RIO – Quotes and Pictures
UFC RIO: Aldo vs. Mendes
Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012
HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro
Athletes competing on this weekend’s UFC RIO: Aldo vs. Mendes card landed today in Brazil and the city is already buzzing about the action-packed event. Headlined by a UFC featherweight title fight between champion Jose Aldo of Rio and top contender Chad Mendes, the event also features an outstanding middleweight co-main event pitting former UFC champion Vitor Belfort against rising middleweight prospect Anthony “Rumble” Johnson.
Mendes arrives in Rio; plans to pull an all-nighter:
Sacramento’s Chad Mendes arrived this morning barely fazed by the 14-hour journey that brought him to the beaches of Rio. Accompanied by training partner and former UFC lightweight Justin Buchholz, the 26-year-old wrestling standout from Cal Poly told local media that he’s never been more prepared.
“I train with some of the best guys in the world,” Mendes, who plans to train in the wee hours of the morning this week to prepare for Saturday’s main starting time of 1 a.m. local time, said. “Jose Aldo is the champion for a reason, but I’ve never been more ready in my life. Saturday can’t get here soon enough.”
“The Phenom” Fighting on home turf:
Rio’s Vitor Belfort couldn’t be more excited to fight in his hometown on Saturday night. With the support of his countrymen and women, “The Phenom” expects to make a big statement when he collides with “Rumble” at the HSBC Arena.
“It feels great to be fighting here and I’m happy to welcome my friends from UFC to Rio,” Belfort, who along with noted nutritionist Mike Dolce, has been in Brazil for several weeks acclimating to the local climate. “I spend a lot of time in Las Vegas training and preparing for fights, but Rio is my home. I’m so motivated for this fight.”
New Champion trades fight shorts for board shorts:
Rain showers didn’t stop UFC heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos from testing the waters at Barra de Tijuca beach in Rio today. The 27-year-old champion joined children from Rocinha Surf School at a surfing event. While the Brazilian superstar – recovering quickly from recent knee surgery – has rode waves in the past, he did not jump on a board today. Instead, he played in the water with the kids and posed for photos with UFC lightweight star Gray Maynard, as well as Octagon Girls Arianny Celeste and Chandella Powell.
“My knee feels great and I’m already boxing and strength training,” dos Santos said. “It’s great to be a part of this event in Rio this week. The kids had a great time surfing and I loved being out there with them.”
Aldo turns to Maynard for Wrestling 101:
Featherweight champion Jose Aldo is taking his first fight in Brazil in nearly five years very seriously. Already one of the most versatile fighters in the sport, the 25-year-old Rio resident has enlisted the help of former lightweight title challenger Gray Maynard to help improve his wrestling skills. Maynard, a standout wrestler at Michigan State University, was happy to oblige and has spent the last three weeks training with the champion at the Nova Uniao gym.
“Rio has been a great experience,” Maynard said. “I’ve helped Aldo with his preparations and had the chance to train with guys like (UFC bantamweight) Renan Barao. I’ve learned so much from “Dede” (Nova Uniao owner and renowned trainer André Pederneiras). This has been an awesome experience.”
Canadian lightweight Sam Stout, who fights Thiago Tavares, traveled to Rio with featherweight star and close friend Mark Hominick. Hominick will corner Stout in Stout’s first fight since the passing of his late trainer and brother-in-law, Shawn Tompkins. Diego Brandao, who won season 14 of The Ultimate Fighter® in December, is in Rio participating in fan events. The 24-year-old says the past two months have been “amazing” and hopes to return to action soon.
“That guy is a giant!”— local tourist upon seeing UFC heavyweight newcomer Ednaldo “Lula” Oliveira, who trains with dos Santos and debuts against veteran Gabriel Gonzaga on Saturday night. The 6-foot-5, 238-pound fighter has knocked out nine opponents in 13 professional wins.
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