Former WEC bantamweight Will Ribeiro‘s body may be permanently damaged, but his willingness to help the most vulnerable members of Brazilian society isn’t.
On Sunday Ribeiro’s fledgling Fighting for Peace (Lutando pela Paz) promotion holds its third event, showcasing fighters from Rio Janeiro’s many favelas (shanty towns).
Despite massive cranial injuries from a 2008 motorcycle accident that the left side of his body paralyzed, Ribeiro’s volunteer work – coaching impoverished youth – has yielded fruit.
“On the day of the event, Will is to be honored by Natura, a major manufacturer that supports various social programs,” Wladimir Alves, event organizer and Ribeiro’s brother, told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). “His work is being acknowledged as a great new project with serious growth potential. Likewise, he’ll be recognized by Rio de Janeiro’s state legislative assembly.”
A total of 13 fights are planned. They feature professional muay Thai, amateur MMA and professional MMA matchups. Adding legitimacy to the event are famed referees Paulo Borracha and Artur Mariano. Mariano also works as a commentator for Globo network’s Combate channel. Both Borracha and Mariano are currently engaged in developing Brazil’s new MMA athletic commissions.
Ribeiro, who went 1-1 with the WEC after a successful career on Brazil’s regional circuit, will be cornering two fighters from his own team.
One additional goal of the promotion is to unite athletes from various Rio de Janeiro favelas, including Rocinha, Andarai, Mangueira, Macaco and Fogueteiro. Not long ago, rival drug gangs ruled these areas, and any such cultural exchanges would have been impossible.
Ribeiro, who said he grew up as rambunctious child without a father figure, sees himself in his students.
“They’re always getting in trouble just like we used to,” he said. “Of course they’re only children. They will have a bright future.
“Even before the accident, I used to teach. Years ago I imagined I could serve as a role model to our youth, but not in this way. Nowadays I feel a greater sense of responsibility.”
Regarding his own health, progress has been slow, he said.
“Unfortunately, I lack both reliable transportation and money to pay for regular physical therapy sessions,” he said. “I also haven’t been able to attend speech therapy to address my vocal-cord damage.
“I’ve gone back to hitting the heavy bag for exercise despite my inability to move my left arm. I have to skip exercising on colder days, as I’m not able to keep my body warm. Unfortunately, medical care remains very substandard in Brazil, as seen in recent protests, and wheelchair-access ramps are very uncommon.”
Ribeiro is expected to require anticonvulsant drugs carbamazepine and phenobarbital for the rest of his life.
(NOTE: To assist Ribeiro with continuing medical costs, log into www.paypal.com, choose “Send Money,” type in [email protected] and choose “Purchase.” Will Ribeiro and Wladimir Alves can also be contacted at [email protected])