Google Insights, which provides a representation of regional and international interests based on user searches for the world's largest search engine, released data that might even surprise Anderson Silva's most die-hard fans.
For the month of July 2012, queries relating to the rematch between UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva and top contender Chael Sonnen easily outperformed Olympics searches in Google in Brazil.
Why is This So Impressive?
In most countries, Olympics queries dominated trending sports searches last month. Brazil is one of the few countries that was seemingly more interested in a non-Olympic event.
If there was any doubt about UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva's enormous popularity in his native Brazil, Google's numbers appear to have erased them.
Last month, Brazil's top three highest trending sports queries and six of the top ten related to UFC 148: Silva vs Sonnen II. Moreover, the query "Anderson Silva" was the second highest trending query for all categories.
Google's results are indicative of Anderson Silva's nearly iconic status in Brazil and MMA's popularity there.
Brazil's highest trending query was "dia do amigo" (Friend's Day), a 50+ year old campaign aimed to promote friendship between human beings to encourage a culture of peace. In recent years, Friend's Day has turned into a very popular mass phenomenon in pasts of South America.
The 37 year old Anderson Silva (36-4, 25 Stoppages) of São Paulo, Brazil is UFC's longest reigning champion, and holds the longest winning and title defense streak in UFC history, with 15 consecutive wins and 10 title defenses. Dubbed "The Spider,"Silva is the consensus No. 1 mixed martial artist world. And earlier this year, UFC president Dana White referred to Brazil's Silva as "the greatest mixed martial artist ever."
Did Anderson Silva Have Help Generating Such Incredible Interest in Silva vs Sonnen II?
Despite Silva's tremendous popularity in Brazil, he arguably had a lot of help generating the level of interest the bout received. His rival, Chael Sonnen, was no ordinary opponent. As a matter of fact, some would call him a one-man promotion machine. Whenever there was a camera around, the 35 year old from Milwaukee was never at a loss for words, stealing headlines by poking and jibbing Silva whenever and wherever he could.
But aside from Sonnen's incessant trash talk, he'd come closer than anyone else to defeating the MMA legend in years. In their August 2010 bout, Chael Sonnen won the first four rounds and appeared to be orchestrating a sweet upset before succumbing to a triangle armbar with 1:50 left in the fight.
Sonnen landed 320 strikes against Silva, more than any other fighter since UFC 5, when Royce Gracie landed 355 strikes against Ken Shamrock. The fight also received the Fight of the Year award at the 2010 World MMA Awards.
As a result of the drama and suspence their first bout garnered and Sonnen's 'gift of gab,' the stage was set for one of the most anticipated rematches in UFC history.
UFC 148: Anderson Silva vs Chael Sonnen II, originally intended to take place at UFC 147 at Havelange Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, took place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Silva retained his title by stopping Sonnen in the second round via a TKO.
Given Brazil's level of interest in the bout, imagine how much bigger Silva vs Sonnen II would have been, in Brazil, had it taken place there.
Ironically, the 2016 Olympic Games will take place in Rio de Janeiro.
Main left image courtesy of Sherdog