Immediately following Junior dos Santos' first successful defense of the Ultimate Fighting Championship's heavyweight title last week, he jumped up, straddled the top of the Octagon and sought out a special member of the audience at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Dos Santos was in search of 9-year-old Breno Luis Ferreira de Carvalho, from Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, with whom he has formed a friendship. Breno, who lives in a poverty-stricken neighborhood amid rampant crime, visits Champion's Gym, which is owned and operated by dos Santos' coach, Carlos Dorea.
"Breno is a very funny kid," dos Santos said. "After school, he comes to our gym to watch our training. ... When he's watching our training, I can see in his eyes that he's dreaming to be a fighter one day or something like that. He really likes the fight world, and that's very similar to me."
Dos Santos became a mentor to the boy. When the UFC filmed a segment of "UFC Primetime" in Brazil to promote the dos Santos-Frank Mir fight, Breno was front and center. He asked dos Santos if he could travel with him to America to support him at "UFC 146."
Dos Santos approached the UFC. A team of 24 people worked for 10 days to make the dream a reality. First, the UFC had to locate Breno and his family, and they went door-to-door with a photo from a screen grab to find him. Once they found him, the team worked to arrange travel documents for Breno, his mother, Simone, and his 15-year-old brother, Peter Gabriel. Finally, Breno's father needed to sign paperwork to allow his son to leave the country.
Breno flew to Las Vegas and arrived three days before the fight. His room at the MGM Grand, bigger than his home in Brazil, overlooked the Strip.
Dos Santos, who defeated Mir in the second round, took Breno in the Octagon after the victory. It was emotional for both of them -- the world-class heavyweight and the young boy. More importantly, the trip emphasized one of dos Santos' primary messages: the need to give back.
"I think it's very important," dos Santos said. "Our gym is very close to his house there. His neighborhood is a dangerous neighborhood there. ... On one side, they have the bad things happening. On the other, they can see good fighters -- myself and others -- training and having good opportunities in their lives. I hope they can see that if they work hard and try to go for the right way, they can have a successful career (in whatever field they pursue)."
Michael Chiesa and Al Iaquinta advanced to the finale of "The Ultimate Fighter Live" and will fight for the season's championship June 1 at the Pearl at the Palms Casino in Las Vegas (9 p.m. EDT/6 p.m. PDT). Chiesa, whose father passed away during the show's first week, defeated James Vick in the semifinal. Iaquinta defeated Vinc Pichel to advance. Both finalists were coached by Urijah Faber this season.
Welterweight contenders Jake Ellenberger and Martin Kampmann will headline the card, and featherweights Max Holloway and Pat Schilling will also fight.
The preliminaries, which can be seen live (Fuel TV at 7 p.m. EDT/4 p.m. PDT), feature a featherweight bout between "The Ultimate Fighter" season 12 winner Jonathan Brookins and Charles Oliveira. Three additional bouts will feature six members of the current "TUF" season -- Justin Lawrence vs. John Cofer, Daron Cruickshank vs. Chris Tickle and Myles Jury vs. Chris Saunders.
Additional preliminaries, which can be seen live (www.facebook.com/UFC at 5:45 p.m. EDT/2:45 p.m. PDT), include: lightweights Cristiano Marcello and Sam Sicilia; lightweights Jeremy Larsen and Joe Proctor; and bantamweights John Albert and Erik Perez.