Rafinha Bastos is one of the most popular comedians in Brazil, but the longtime MMA aficionado has been investing hard on his stand-up comedy career in the United States as well — and appearing on the Joe Rogan Experience helped him take it to the next level .
A fan of the sport since the 1990s, Bastos continued to follow MMA after moving from Sao Paulo to the United States to study and compete in basketball for Nebraska’s Chadron State College. Hoping to make a career in comedy and watching Rogan succeed in both areas he was passionate about, Bastos — who gained fame in Brazil as a comedian in the 2000s — had goals of one day being invited to Rogan’s podcast.
The call came in February 2019, thanks to former UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum.
“Joe Rogan, who’s also a commentator for the UFC, was very, very nice to me. I opened a [comedy] show for him,” Bastos said on this week’s episode of MMA Fighting podcast Trocacao Franca. “And I have to thank Werdum. It only happened because he connected me with Joe Rogan. I’ve been trying to be on Rogan’s podcast for a long time but couldn’t get it done. I thought to myself, what’s the best way to get there? Is it through comedy or through show [business]? And someone told me, ‘Man, it’s through the UFC, through MMA. See if one of your friends can help connect you.’”
Some time later, Bastos said, Rogan complimented Werdum in one of the episodes of his podcast, and Bastos knew that was his chance. The Brazilian comedian reached out to Werdum, a close friend of his, asking him to “text the man.” It only took two days to book the interview, Bastos said.
“Being on Joe Rogan’s show really changed my story here in the United States,” said Bastos, who moved to New York to invest in his stand-up comedy and recently got his green card, “and it got me closer to [Rogan]who has been really good to me since the beginning of my story here.”
Bastos, who has a degree in journalism, interviews all sorts of people on his YouTube channel, which boasts more than 3 million subscribers. He has brought in several MMA fighters as well, such as Anderson Silva, Junior dos Santos, Demian Maia, and Charles Oliveira. Former UFC champion Jose Aldo is on his wish list, as are some North American legends.
“I would really love to talk to [Chael] Sonnen,” Bastos said. “I tried it once and almost happened, and I think he’s such an interesting person with all the marketing he’s created, going so far mainly because of the things he’s said, not much because of the performance sometimes
“There are so many interesting guys to talk to,” he continued. “Randy Couture was a genius, too. His beef with the UFC and the UFC kind of ignoring him, you know? “Don’t talk about this guy, don’t give him love.” And coming back in his 40s to beat Tim Sylvia and become heavyweight champion. I think this guy’s story is very interesting. It would be wonderful to talk to Jon Jones, too. Guys like that.”
In the end, Bastos feels that Brazilian MMA fighters are more open to speaking with reporters, especially compared to athletes from other sports, because mainstream media still doesn’t give them much attention. With MMA fighters as his “biggest idols,” even more so than top comedians, Bastos is happy to help shed light to them.
“It’s crazy that MMA fighters in Brazil are so accessible. And they are so cool,” Bastos said. “You have Lyoto [Machida]Werdum, Wanderlei [Silva], people that are always willing and open to chat. They don’t have as many opportunities to talk about their work, especially because athletes have to have a style, know how to behave, and do some self-marketing to become an interesting person outside of fighting.
“If you’re not fighting, you have to make yourself interesting in a way because there’s not a big demand for MMA people in the traditional media. They are so open because they understand it’s an opportunity they have to show a little bit of their work beyond the ring.”