Fighting for his life

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Former MMA contender Will Riberio tries to recover from motorcycle accident

Ed Kapp
Contributor

Although Will Ribeiro’s days as a professional mixed martial artist have been over for quite some time now, the former WEC contender now fights a much greater battle, every day of his life.

Born in Campo Grande, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Ribeiro began his career as a mixed martial artist in 2003 and, after winning eight of his first nine bouts, was invited to leave Brazil and compete under the WEC banner in the United States of America.

After bursting onto the North American mixed martial arts scene with a victory over former WEC bantamweight champion Chase Beebe in mid-2008, Ribeiro was given a shot at the then-undefeated rising-star Brain Bowles at WEC 37.

Although Ribeiro was submitted by Bowles after nearly 12 minutes of action, he impressed many with his performance and showed fans of the sport around the world that if given the opportunity, he could accomplish a great deal in the world of professional mixed martial arts.

Unfortunately Ribeiro never got the chance to show the world what could have been, as after returning to his native Brazil after his bout against Bowles, Ribeiro was brutally injured in a horrific motorcycle accident that left the once highly regarded professional athlete in a comatose state that many medical professionals believed he may not awaken from. 

Fortunately, Ribeiro would regain consciousness, but only to find that the support system that he once relied on was now a thing of the past.

“My friends abandoned me, my girlfriend left me,” Ribeiro said, “I only have my brother and sister and no one else.”

With thirty percent of his skull removed, Ribero has hopes that he may one day walk again.

“My neurosurgeon tells me that I’ll possibly walk again,” Ribeiro noted, “There is no way that I will be able to fight again.”

After spending the majority of his life working to become the best mixed martial artist he could be, Riberio now struggles to support himself.

“My employers didn’t help me financially, so I made a DVD of my struggles to try to raise funds for my treatment,” said Riberio. “Very few people bought my stuff.”

Unfortunately for Ribeiro, a lifetime spent in mixed martial arts training facilities has done little in preparing the Luta Livre Esportiva brown belt for a life outside of training and competing.

Although Ribeiro was once revered as a national treasure, his debilitating condition is heavily stigmatized in his native Brazil, as Ribeiro claims that a strong prejudice against those in wheelchairs exists in his homeland.

“Everything here for the disabled in Brazil is more expensive,” noted Ribeiro. “Everything is more expensive, nothing is cheap.”

Someday, Ribeiro hopes to use his knowledge of the “fight-game” to help younger generations of mixed martial artists become champions themselves, but perhaps more importantly, Ribeiro hopes to show people in both Brazil and around the world that those in wheelchairs are still capable human beings.

“Say no to the prejudice of those in wheelchairs,” exclaimed Ribeiro, “I want to travel and tell people about the prejudice that exists against those in wheelchairs.”

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