Mayra Bueno Silva happy to finally fight in front of a UFC crowd again after 5 years: ‘That’s priceless’

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Mayra Bueno Silva will finally hear cheers — or boos — from a crowd again for the first time since 2018.

“Sheetara” made her octagon debut in her native Sao Paulo, Brazil, scoring a first-round armbar victory over Gillian Robertson in November 2018. It took a while for her to recover from a bad knee injury suffered that night, and once she returned, Silva was part of the UFC Brasilia card in March 2020 that was almost shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving an empty arena for the first time due to the health crisis.

Since then, Silva has entered the octagon seven times, with all of those fights taking place inside the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, a place built to host events in the pandemic with only a few people in attendance. Now, as Silva prepares to face Raquel Pennington for the vacant bantamweight title at UFC 297 on Jan. 20 in Toronto, she celebrates competing in front of a larger crowd.

“To get fans on their feet with every punch, every move, every takedown, that’s priceless,” Silva said on MMA Fighting’s Trocação Franca podcast. “That’s incredible. I’m way more anxious to experience that again, to see the crowd again, than about the actual fight. I’m very happy for that.”

“When I found out I was going to fight Raquel I thought it was going to be in Vegas,” she continued. “I was happy too because Vegas is where I did my whole UFC career, but when I found out it was going to be in Toronto I realized, damn, we’ll have a crowd again, I’ll meet fans again. I wake up every day thanking God for my life and for the opportunity He’s giving me.”

Silva earned a shot at the vacant belt after defeating Wu Yanan, Stephanie Egger, Lina Lansberg, and Holly Holm in four bantamweight appearances. Her most recent victory, a ninja choke submission of Holm, was overturned afterward due to a positive drug test, but that didn’t stop the UFC from awarding Silva with a chance for gold.

The American Top Team fighter vows to “give fans a great show and bring the belt back [to Brazil]” because Brazilian fans “deserve this joy” after double champion Amanda Nunes retired from the sport. After years away from real arenas, “Sheetara” looks back at her UFC Sao Paulo debut as proof that fans in attendance can help you win fights.

“I felt my knee wasn’t OK [against Robertson] but still kept fighting because I was at home, I was with my people, and they were screaming,” Silva said. “I would never give up. I probably wouldn’t be able to come back for the second round because I couldn’t even stand still, but as I was there, in that first round, I gave my all because fans were happy. It was a party in my backyard, and there’s no way I would let them down.”


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