Coach Jorge Climent: Ilia Topuria can sellout UFC event at Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu

Ilia Topuria’s rise to stardom has been one of the biggest stories of 2024. The UFC featherweight champion has surprised many with his explosion in popularity, including his own coach, Jorge Climent.

Climent has been ultra confident in Topuria’s capabilities and even predicted that his pupil would knock out Alexander Volkanovski to win the UFC featherweight title—something many didn’t see possible. However, although Climent thinks the world of Topuria (15-0 MMA, 7-0 UFC), he didn’t see coming his rise in popularity in Spain, at least not at the levels it’s played out.

“Having confidence in what we are capable of, doesn’t mean I had the vision of what we’re seeing today,” Climent told MMA Junkie in Spanish. “I never thought we were going to have the reach that we have now or be recognized in the manner in which we’re being recognized.

“In Spain, this was always a niche sport and the majority of the fan base was created by us, so it’s just incredible. Winning over the Real Madrid fan base, being with the top politicians, being on television, heck, I even get recognized by older women. I say to myself, ‘This is crazy. This is all so crazy.’ But we’re staying as humble as possible and as grateful as possible.”

Shortly after winning the UFC featherweight title at UFC 298 last month, Topuria met with the president of Spain, did the honorary kick-off at the Real Madrid vs. Sevilla game, and appeared on the biggest talk shows in the country, among other things.

The UFC is aware of the attention Topuria has been getting in his home country, and they’ve expressed publicly their interest in having a debut event in Spain. Climent is confident that Topuria can easily headline and sell out a UFC event in Spain’s most prestigious stadium, Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabéu.

“I’m sure he sells out El Bernabéu and not just of Spanish fans,” Climent explained. “Spain is the destination where all Europeans go on vacation. It’s very easy to come here and realize what paradise Spain is, so yeah, I’m sure he sells it out.

“Also, El Bernabéu is not just a stadium. When you look at it from the outside, it’s closed like an arena. They have some machines that cover the grass field and the seat sections can be made closer. It’s all now automatic and new. I think they just reopened it this year. It’s all modern and new. If I’m not mistaken, this year, they’re projected to do the NFL, NBA, so they’re bringing in many new projects. So why not also the UFC?”

Climent strongly believes that Spain is primed for a UFC event. Not only does it have a champion in Topuria, but it’s also a country with a passion for sports, and MMA could be added to its list.

“We deserve it and Spain deserves a UFC event,” Climent said. “At the end of the day, I think this greatly benefits the UFC because they can create a ton of lifelong fans. Spain is a place where people really like sports, and the UFC being a new sport here while having a star like Ilia, why not?”

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie