UFC’s Virna Jandiroba speaks out against right-wing ‘barbarism’ and explains why President Jair Bolsonaro offends her and her family

UFC’s Virna Jandiroba speaks out against right-wing ‘barbarism’ and explains why President Jair Bolsonaro offends her and her family

Former Invicta strawweight champion and current UFC athlete Virna Jandiroba is in the minority. Coming from one of the poorest regions in Brazil (the Northeast), ‘Carcara’ has always been quite vocal about a subject that most MMA fighters disagree with: politics.

After her June 2021 TKO win over Kanako Murata, Virna went viral on the internet to bash then-president Jair Bolsonaro in her post-fight speech. In a few words, Jandiroba famously criticized the former leader and praised Brazil’s universal health care system (SUS), which was crucial during Bolsonaro’s disastrous handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Praise to SUS. Go away, Naro (short for Bolsonaro)”. Virna shouted to the cameras at UFC Vegas 29.

After former featherweight champion Jose Aldo hosted Bolsonaro at his home in Orlando in the United States, as well as flyweight champion Deiveson Figueiredo’s support for the far-right riots in the Brazilian capital, Jandiroba agreed to talk to him. Bloody Elbow to show the other less visible side.

She will be the first guest in my series “Not All Brazilians”, where I will interview fighters who do not support Bolsonaro’s politics or far-right views, going against the majority in the Brazilian MMA community, with notable names such as Mauricio Rua, Wanderlei. Silva, Fabricio Werdum and many others, among his supporters.

Linked below is a pro-Bolsonaro campaign video called “Real fighters vote 22 (Bolsonaro’s number in the 2022 presidential elections). In it, all the names mentioned above are shown, as well as many more.

In fact, this majority was one of the first topics that Jandiroba entered into the conversation. As a member of the Bahia Fighting House, Virna detailed how she develops a relationship with the right-wing fighters where she spends most of her time. Perhaps it’s no surprise that the best approach Carcara has found is to discuss politics in the gym.

“I have a pretty good relationship with the people at my gym. Most people there lean lean left. So there aren’t many political disagreements, at least with the people I’m close to. However, I train with people who are also supporters of Bolsonaro. We are not just talking about it. That matter cannot be handled. We prefer not to talk about political opinions. Everyone knows I’m left-wing. I talked about it in the Octagon. So that topic is pretty clear and we don’t talk about it. We prefer to focus on training,”

Virna may not discuss politics in the gym to avoid unnecessary stress where she has to focus on the task at hand, but that doesn’t mean she won’t talk passionately about various circumstances.

After being questioned about where her political stance comes from, Jandiroba shared a brutal true story involving her grandfather, a former military officer during Brazil’s military dictatorship, who was persecuted for not supporting the vicious regime he was known for torturing, silencing and killing his opponents. .

Although she never got to meet her grandfather, Jandiroba emphasized how the influence of his life affected her father and, in turn, herself.

“We are influenced by our environment. This impressed me. Since I am from the North East region. Everyone in my nuclear family is left wing. My father, my grandfather. My grandfather was a colonel during the military dictatorship in Brazil. He was against the coup (1964 military), however. They put a reward on his head. He wanted dead or alive. After the dictatorship (which lasted until 1985), this bounty was archived and he was no longer a wanted man. They didn’t have enough evidence to go after it. He was accused of treason and was actually working against the army, but they could never prove it.

“This was very damaging in my life,” said Virna. “I didn’t get to meet my grandfather, but listen to my father’s life. They were always in hiding because of this (persecution). My father is a retired social science teacher. He was always a very quiet man and I didn’t understand why. After he told me his life story, I realized that he had to be like that. The dictatorship was silent, my father has nightmares about that to this day. He dreams that military men are invading his house, He is like a five-year-old boy. So I have all this background, you know?,”

Despite her life story, Jandiroba still tries not to judge other fighters who support far-right politics, although she considers those positions to be hypocritical. Since martial arts should be a free art form, Virna believes it is going against her roots to support a government based on oppression. In order to explain the phenomenon, she notes the link between martial arts and the military, in which historical exhibitions have always been intertwined.

“Bolsonaro offends me and my family on several levels. It is impossible for me to like him. I try not to criticize fighters individually, though. I believe it has a lot to do with being ignorant. I think it also flirts with the military concept. Martial arts were born out of military tactics, so I think they are flirting. However, I think it is contradictory. I practice jiu-jitsu and its roots, going all the way back to the samurais, are the ones who serve. People are distorting its meaning along the way. Now they think that people can solve things by using force.”

In addition, Jandiroba finds a different explanation for why so many mixed martial artists support Bolsonaro in a more obvious place: sexism. Mostly practiced by men, in a country with deep problems in the way society perceives men and women (on average, women are paid 20.5% less than men), the sport has always attracted athletes over its be conservative. Especially when Bolsonaro himself came forward to support the same views,

However, Jandiroba is willing to look on the bright side this time, claiming it could be a long road ahead, but things are starting to change for the better.

“There is also a lot of sexism. This is the most men’s sport. It will take us a long time to overcome that, but it is important that we take that first step. There are already some men who think differently. It doesn’t make much sense. We are such a diverse country. Martial arts should be for everyone. So how can you believe that it is suitable for everyone and at the same time support someone who says that minorities should accept whatever the majority imposes (an infamous line that Bolsonaro announced in his speeches ). It’s a bit contradictory, isn’t it?”

“That’s what we should be trying to be inclusive of,” Virna said. “We cannot exclude people. It goes against the world, it goes against civilization. If we go down that way, it is barbarism. We were on that path, and some of us have been expressing that since the beginning. Many people regurgitated the homophobic, racist, sexists things he said. It was so anti-democratic, but people weren’t paying enough attention. The riots in Brasilia were just last fall. And now Bolsonaro’s fallacies are out there for all to see. The Emperor has no clothes.”

In her last outing, Jandiroba (18-3) scored a unanimous decision win over Angela Hill, back in May 2022. However, the 34-year-old suffered a meniscus injury during the fight and has been sidelined aside since then. With no matches booked in the near future, the Brazilian still hopes to make a return in the first half of 2023.

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