RIO DE JANEIRO -- When you hear the words "It's time!" at the start of the UFC's main event, it's usually only from Bruce Buffer's lips. At UFC 134 on Saturday, some 14,000 people -- most Brazilian -- added their voices to the silver-haired MC's catchphrase.
This was just one of the many unique things about the crowd at UFC 134.
There was one recurring comment from everyone in attendance, and it was that this was the loudest, craziest crowd in UFC history. Though a quarter of the size of UFC 129 in Toronto (55,000+), they won an international shouting match and earned the title "most raucous MMA fans in the world."
Take the match-up between Sao Paulo's part-time police officer Paulo Thiago and the American David Mitchell. A member of the infamous SWAT-style police squad BOPE (Operacoes Especiais da Policia Brasileira), Thiago came out to a blasting hip-hop track taken from Elite Troop, one of Brazil's highest grossing films. The crowd sang along to every word, and spent the 15 minutes of their countryman's fight singing a medley of soccer chants and popular songs.
The Thiago fight was the best example, but this behavior went on all night. They vociferously booed any foreign fighter, and heartily cheered every local. It wasn't malicious -- they did allow a smatter of applause for Nedkov, the sole victorious non-Brazilian of the evening -- it was just part of the game.
Brazil boasts a rich culture of sport and music, and they overlap plenty. Soccer games are carnival affairs, and teams of samba musicians and dancers face off in regular competitions.
And of course, there's the passion. Brazilians are a fiery people. They celebrated Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Mauricio Rua and Silva's wins by sending showers of beers and plastic cups toward the Octagon. Can you imagine what they would have done had the locals lost?
If 14,000 Brazilians can create such a stir, what will 100,000 be like? Dana White is promising a trip to the city of Manaus in Northern Brazil. He says they intend to sell out the Sambadrome, a giant structure that will dwarf any previous UFC live event. But are they really ready for that kind of energy?
One thing's for sure -- I'll definitely be packing my ear plugs.