On Dec. 20, Brazil will make mixed martial arts history when the country hosts what's being billed as the first-ever match between a man and a woman since the sport adopted the Unified Rules.
Emerson Falcao (0-1) is set to take on Juliana Velasquez (0-0) at Rio de Janeiro's Shooto 45 in a three-round bantamweight fight (the MMA weight class tops out at 135 pounds), according to MMAFighting.com. Last April, Falcao, who is about an inch taller than Velasquez, made his MMA debut but suffered a first-round loss to Benny Blackat. The fight on Friday will be Velasquez's first professional MMA fight.
Shooto President Andre Pederneiras, who is also head of Falcao's MMA team Nova Uniao, has been promoting the fight but has yet to outline any specifics with regard to special rules, according to Bleacher Report.
"We guarantee that everything will be done within the law and safely," he said, according to MMAjunkie's translation of his comments to Combate.com, a Brazilian site.
Velasquez, for her part, told MMAFighting.com that she's ready to win:
"Andre Pederneiras came up with the idea. He asked Team Nogueira for a female fighter and my team believes I'm ready, so I accepted the challenge. My expectations are the best. I'm well trained to get there and win. I'm used to training with man [sic] every day. I'm a professional judoka and I know the adrenaline of the competition, I know how to handle this."
But the whole thing may suffer a TKO.
For one thing, Falcao posted to Facebook on Dec. 3 that he had been injured. While several sources close to the fighter confirmed to MMAFighting.com that he would be unable to fight again until next year, Pederneiras told the site that Falcao will be ready for Friday's match.
Then there's the question of whether the fight will be officially sanctioned.
"There's nothing in the rules that specific [sic] prohibits a man to fight a woman, but when you interpret the rules you know that both athletes must be in the same level, so there's no way a man should be allowed to fight a woman," Osiris Maia, a member of the Brazilian Mixed Martial Arts Confederation, told MMAFighting.com.
A member of Brazilian Athletic Commission, which regulates the country's UFC events, told MMAjunkie that if the show goes on, Pederneiras can forget about any future plans for working together. "If Andre is really putting that fight together, and if it's in his plans to work together next year, for sure it won't happen," said Cristiano Sampaio, the commission's director of operations.
Combate.com does report that the fight, should it indeed take place, would not be the first co-ed MMA fight in Brazil. Ediene "India" Gomes reportedly defeated a man identified only as "Carlos" in what the site describes as a "clandestine" match at a Rio Heroes event.
Stay tuned for Thursday's weigh-in, where the official promotion card will be revealed and some of the questions may be answered.