Santiago Ponzinibbio has broken new ground for the UFC in South America, but he wasn’t the first Argentine to do so.
Ponzinibbio might be the most decorated non-Brazilian fighter to hail from the south side of the continent — his six-fight winning streak helped the UFC make its first venture into Argentina with a Fight Night card on Nov. 17 in Buenos Aires, at which “Gente Boa” will face Neil Magny in the main event. A win for Ponzinibbio on Saturday night’s event at Parque Roca Arena likely changes mixed martial arts in Argentina forever, boosting the popularity of both the athlete and the UFC. But another Argentine talent had the chance to make that same push 13 years ago, at a time when the UFC wasn’t nearly as big as it is today and the thought of the Octagon traveling to South America seemed to be a distant dream.
Alex Schoenauer, born in El Bolson in 1976, moved away from Argentina when he was 15. A decade later, Schoenauer entered himself into a professional mixed martial arts bout for the first time, and scored the first of seven eventual wins that earned him a spot in the reality television show that changed the history of the UFC.