Brazilians Rush to Ribeiro's Aid

By Marcelo Alonso Apr 29, 2009
When illness or any other kind of physical impediment afflicts one of its own, the Brazilian mixed martial arts community puts aside rivalries and unites in exemplary solidarity. Such is the case with Will Ribeiro.

An up-and-coming bantamweight, Ribeiro was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident in December, less than two weeks after his submission loss to Brian Bowles at WEC 37. Luis Alves, Ribeiro’s trainer and president of the Brazilian Muay Thai Confederation, broke the sobering news to the public soon after the accident.

“He was riding a bike without a helmet and, when he tried to brake, skidded and crashed,” Alves said. “Unfortunately, his brain suffered serious damage, and the doctors are not optimistic about his recovery. But Will is a warrior, and I’m sure he will fight for his life with the same will he does in the ring.”

Four months later, a wheelchair-bound Ribeiro attended a live CBMT show at the Nogueira Training Center. Alves brought him to the center of the ring and bestowed a medal upon him in front of 200 spectators.

“I would like to ask for a round of applause for this example of bravery and obstinacy,” ring announcer Olivar Leite said.

The audience stood in admiration of Ribeiro, whose stock was on the rise before the accident. The 26-year-old has rattled off four consecutive wins prior to his loss to Bowles, including a WEC 34 victory against former World Extreme Cagefighting bantamweight champion Chase Beebe.

“After seeing what he went through,” said one of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira’s trainers, “it was hard to hold back the tears.”

Martins Denis/

The Brazilian MMA community
has a rich history
in lifting up its own.
During the time he spent in the hospital between life and death, Ribeiro received tremendous support from the Brazilian MMA community. Andre Pederneiras promoted a Shooto event after which roughly $2,200 in profits was donated to the Ribeiro family. In addition, Nogueira -- an idol, a personal friend and the former Pride Fighting Championships and interim UFC heavyweight titleholder -- also provided undisclosed financial support. T-shirts were also sold to help fund his treatment.

“We owe a lot to the solidarity of MMA people who helped us in this difficult time, but now we want to give him the very best physiotherapy,” said Ribeiro’s brother, Wladimir Alves. “We want to take him to Sara Kubitschek, which is the best hospital for neurology and physiotherapy in Brazil. We already got an admission interview. His worst problem is his arm, which he can’t move, and leg; he can’t stand up. The doctors said that, with good treatment, there’s some hope that he could walk again and, if God wants, return to fighting.”

The Brazilian MMA community has a rich history in lifting up its own. In 2004, when Brazilian jiu-jitsu legend Fernando Terere was arrested -- the FBI confused him with a terror suspect after a flight from Los Angeles to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil -- supporters pulled together to fund his defense. When Brazilian Top Team instructor Eraldo Paes needed money to pay for chemotherapy treatments in 2007, his countrymen answered the bell. In 2006, Brazilians raised nearly $20,000 for the transfer of the late Carlson Gracie’s body; ultimately, his family decided to bury him in Chicago.

Fans interested in donating to Ribeiro’s treatment fund should send their donations to: Will Marco Pessoa Ribeiro, Caixa Economica Federal, AG-0201, Conta Poupanca- 01300006328-7.
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