Fighting Community Answers Tragedy, Mobilizes in Wake of Brazilian Floods

By Gleidson Venga Jan 18, 2011
A real tragedy has unfolded in Brazil in recent days, as heavy rains have punished the mountainous region of Rio de Janeiro, leaving more than 670 people dead and nearly 14,000 homeless. The cities affected include Nova Friburgo, Teresopolis, Sumidouro and Petropolis -- which has hosted three Meca Fighting Championship events.

The mother of Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships winner Pablo Popovitch was killed in the disaster, and his father, who lost everything, was admitted to the hospital.

In response to the floods, the fighting community has mobilized to help aid the victims. Three Brazilian icons -- jiu-jitsu legend Rickson Gracie (Pictured), his brother, Royler Gracie, and Olympic medalist Flavio Canto -- will hold a seminar together on Wednesday in hopes of benefitting the homeless.

“The idea is much bigger than a technical seminar,” Royler said. “Our goal is to mobilize the practitioners of martial arts, get together, see friends and help the thousands of people who are suffering from this tragedy.”

Canto, a two-time Olympian in judo who won bronze in 2004, placed an emphasis on the most basic of necessities.

“To enter the seminar will require at least five kilograms of nonperishable food per participant,” Canto said, “and our challenge and expectation is to raise more than a ton of food.”

Rickson urged all who were capable to aid in the relief effort.

“It’s extremely important that all practitioners, regardless of the sport they represent or the academy they attend, come and make of the sport of fighting a tool of practical support to society,” he said.

Murilo Bustamante, leader of Brazilian Top Team, is rallying his staff to raise money for the victims.

“I arrived Friday from a trip. I knew what had happened but had no idea about the seriousness of the situation,” Bustamante said. “I spoke with friends who live there, like manager Alex Davis, who works with me in BTT. He is there helping people. Thank God nothing happened to him or his family, but many need help. It was a very big tragedy in proportions you would usually not see. I think everyone has to help. I made my donation, and I’m doing a campaign with my team.

“It’s very sad,” he added. “People lost relatives. There are people missing. There are people who lost their homes and all their assets; they were left with only the clothes on their bodies. It’s tragic when someone loses all references to their life in something like that. We’re collecting food, clothing and medicine at BTT to help.”

M-1 Challenge and K-1 Hero’s veteran Jair “Sorriso” Goncalves, who lives in Teresopolis, took off his gloves and volunteered in the rescue. Meanwhile, teams like Chute Boxe, Nova União and American Top Team are also mobilizing to help those in need.

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