Paralyzed WEC Veteran Will Ribeiro Added as Coach to Olympics-hopeful Brazil Muay Thai Team

Things were looking up for Will Ribeiro in December of 2008. With a 10-2 MMA record, he found himself firmly among the world’s top bantamweight fighters. Then there was that devastating collision, a horrific car-on-motorcycle accident that left Ribeiro in a coma for over a month, blind in one eye and partially paralyzed for life.

Today, Ribeiro remains paralyzed on the left half of his body. But he was never one to back down from a challenge. By early 2009, Ribeiro decided to fully devote himself to teaching martial arts to impoverished children in his own Rio de Janeiro neighborhood, Morro do Andarai. In 2010, his own trainer, Boxe Thai head coach Luiz Alves, unexpectedly passed away from a stroke. Ribeiro kept on pushing forward, eventually graduating from a wheelchair to a walking cane. His voice never fully came back, but it’s noticeably stronger. It commands the attention of many youngsters who have turned to martial arts, wishing to escape poverty and the temptations of crime.

Now that IFMA (International Federation of Muaythai Associations) is recognized by the International Olympic Committee, hopes are high that muay Thai will be one of the featured sports in the next Summer Olympics.

On Oct. 15 through 17, the Rio Olympic Velodrome will host both the 31st South American championship and the 3rd Brazil International Muay Thai Open. Ribeiro has been tapped as an auxiliary coach for the Brazilian team. Two of Ribeiro’s own homegrown pupils, Patrick Lima and Angelo Gabriel, are among the competitors. Eighteen-year-old Gabriel will participate in the South American tournament, which features fighters from Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay and Uruguay. Gabriel has been Ribeiro’s pupil since he was nine years old. He has competed in Thailand, and achieved multiple Rio de Janeiro state and Brazilian muay Thai championships. In eight years of amateur competition, Gabriel has amassed a 72-5 record. He occasionally trains at the famed Nova Uniao academy under coach Andre Pederneiras, with the goal of transitioning to MMA.

Things haven’t been exactly easy lately. “The current COVID pandemic has made things worse in Brazil, in regard to financial support and availability of training partners,” Ribeiro told Sherdog in this native Portuguese. “Sometimes my student, Angelo, only has the heavy bag as a training partner, besides me.”

“I feel that by placing my students in the Brazilian team, I am giving continuity to the work of our late coach, grandmaster Luiz Alves. I miss competing. When cornering my students, it’s almost as if I’m back in there, fighting again.”


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