June 21, 2024

CAMPINAS, Brazil — It’s a sizzling Saturday morning, and the Viracopos Hippodrome is packed. Hundreds of people have collected from all about the region on Sept. 9 with their finest horses for a single of Brazil’s most crucial harness races of the time, including a UFC star.

“It’s seriously him,” a man tells his mate as a toddler blue 2500 RAM Laramie parks up coming to a white and blue truck for this storied form of horse racing. It is hard not to observe the car, adopted by a baby blue Vary Rover Evoque, and the guy guiding its wheel. He demands no introduction — it really is former UFC light-weight champion Charles Oliveira.

UFC 294 is 43 times absent, and Oliveira will embark to Abu Dhabi on Oct. 11, leaving Sao Paulo with his gigantic entourage to at the time once again problem for the 155-pound title versus his most latest nemesis, Islam Makhachev. Racing horses is a further enthusiasm, nevertheless, and judging by his pre-race feelings, it may be an even more substantial passion than genuine combating.

Oliveira grew up in Guaruja and often experienced a issue for horses. He understood the aspiration of shopping for his dad and mom a farm, and he commenced breeding animals via his MMA earnings. But they ended up nothing at all like these horses. With all the money he’s built from preventing and sponsorship bargains, the UFC celebrity can manage to devote six figures on racing horse accoutrements.

“It’s a horse that has gigantic heart and never ever presents up,” says Oliveira, sitting in the back again of his truck with two of his most high priced horses, waiting for race time. “I really like harness racing.”

All those horses, Oliveira suggests, prepare as tricky as blended martial artists.

Charles Oliveira celebrates
Guilherme Cruz

“It’s like a fighter, instruction from Monday as a result of Saturday, and only resting on Sundays,” he states. “It’s so substantially do the job. They use ice and acupuncture like we do. They have sparring day, how we connect with true racing training. It actually is a distinctive horse.”

Marcos Dahy, the jockey on Oliveira’s group, is the male accountable for getting treatment of and schooling horses for races, while “do Bronx” prepares for his own battles at Chute Boxe Sao Paulo. But Oliveira also loves to get in his cart and race anytime he has the probability. Earlier this year, he competed a day just before flying to Canada to fight Beneil Dariush. He was likely to compete this afternoon as perfectly, even so his horse experienced an personal injury previously this week.

India Mia, a unique mare Oliveira acquired in Argentina, secured a trophy in the race the former UFC champ was supposed to be in, finishing 2nd. But Ocelot, his prized horse, will compete at 5 p.m. in the ultimate race of the day, and that’s all he can consider about.

“I really do not get nervous right before a fight,” Oliveira says. “I get a bit nervous when it’s time and whatnot, but for a race, man, I can’t rest. I stayed up all night time, strolling all around the household thinking [about the race] and inquiring God to bless us. I have a enormous aspiration of turning out to be winner [on this Cup]. I’ve positioned 2nd when, I have gained other people, but not this Cup.

“I work my ass off, I assistance some others in any way I can to have a good race. I experienced a active week with taking pictures [promotional UFC videos and interviews] and teaching, but I was teaching with my head on this day.”

A horse of this caliber costs much more than $50,000, the similar total Oliveira made in a publish-battle reward for his very first-spherical acquire more than Dariush in June. “Do Bronx” holds the history for most bonuses in UFC historical past, which has aided him to construct a team of beneficial horses and provide them the finest treatment achievable for times like this.

Oliveira can’t stand nevertheless. His good friends are laughing and acquiring pleasurable, eating some barbecue, having said that he’s basically pacing close to in circles upcoming to the truck. His mom notices he’s nervous and asks him sit down to sing a prayer. Oliveira’s six-calendar year-aged daughter Tayla enjoys Ocelot, and she joins him in the moment of religion.

“Just like I desire of becoming UFC winner once again, I want to gain this Cup far too,” Oliveira says. “It has anything to take place nowadays. It’s a rough race, there are excellent horses racing and I hope the best one particular wins — if God blesses us and it is Ocelot, I’ll be quite pleased.”

Oliveira prays with his mother and daughter
Guilherme Cruz

The penultimate race is around, and the winning horse is named “Minotauro,” a superior sign for superstitious MMA people. Ocelot was not in his finest affliction right after struggling an injuries earlier this calendar year, but Oliveira feels confident. Ocelot has recorded a sterling time of 1:52 in a lot more than 8 past races, so these days may well be the working day Oliveira will finally acquire the Cup.

The instant of truth is minutes absent — the principal event, and Oliveira is tearing up. He turns to Tayla and asks God for his blessing, and she responses, “He will gain, in the name of Jesus.” Oliveira whispers to Ocelot’s ears, “You’re prepared. I know that.”

Dahy, Ocelot’s jockey, leaves with the horse, and the entire Oliveira crew is headed to the race monitor. But the UFC star chooses to walk a various course. He just can’t depart his truck with out having surrounded by admirers thirsty for pics, and this is not the ideal instant for that.

“I by no means get desperate about something, but this final [race], brother … come on,” Oliveira tells a close friend. “Humans can say they are not experience Alright, that they have stomachache or any other suffering, so you give them medicine, you do something about it. Horses simply cannot. How are they going to convey to you? They just cannot, and then it’s the second of reality.”

The race starts and Oliveira prays. He wipes tears out of his eyes and prays some additional. “What you give to the universe is what will come back to you,” he repeats in excess of and around yet again. He walks to the end line by his girlfriend and hears messages of encouragement from a men and women in attendance.

“You’ll acquire this a person — and the belt,” a person states.

Five horses approach the finish neck and neck. The leader, Abra, crosses the line to start with, and Oliveira is in disbelief. Ocelot arrives in fourth. Dozens of individuals invade the keep track of, a sea of gray shirts celebrating Abra’s huge get, and the former UFC champ walks back to his truck.

The official time for the winner is 1:55, which upsets Oliveira even even further, thinking of the moments Ocelot has posted in the past. But what matters in the stop is who was the speediest animal that working day, and this time all around Abra’s workforce will get bragging rights.

“The most effective [horse], the just one that is improved organized [may not win], since in some cases he woke up not emotion Ok,” Oliveira stated. “It’s like all of us. It sucks, person.”

Oliveira is dissatisfied, and Tayla is heartbroken. “Do Bronx” asks his loved ones and buddies to depart, and they pack everything up. Ocelot comes, and Oliveira allows detach the cart to quiet the animal down. “Do Bronx” takes photographs with two little ones in advance of leaving, faking his ideal smile. He didn’t get the trophy he so terribly desired.

Before long, Oliveira will after again be underneath the vivid lights for a key occasion at UFC 294.

Now, he has one more rationale to provide the grand prize dwelling.

Guilherme Cruz