RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — It’s been 196 days since Alexandre Pereira Silva was hospitalized after attempting to make weight for his professional MMA debut at Shooto Brazil 80.
Now, his recovery is being viewed by family and doctors as a miracle.
The 21-year-old fighter defeated Marcos Silva in his amateur debut as a lightweight in May 2017 and was set to face the same opponent at 145 pounds this past January. Alexandre Pereira Silva was cutting weight in a motel hot tub when he fell ill, was rushed to a hospital nearby and had a heart attack.
After dealing with multiple organ failures and falling into a coma for more than two months, the MMA fighter is now slowly recovering. Silva’s organs are functioning again and he no longer needs a machine to assist him breathing. He’s out of his coma, and can even eat again.
“We see that he’s trying to talk, but the tracheotomy doesn’t allow him just yet,” Silva’s father Magno Pereira told MMA Fighting on Thursday.
“We put him in a wheelchair one of these days and took him for a ride in the hospital and everybody was happy to see his recovery.”
Pereira and his wife, Eliane, traveled 550 miles from Nanuque to Rio de Janeiro to watch their son make his professional debut in January, and haven’t returned home yet. Silva’s parents are living in a rental apartment in Catete, where Pereira lived since he moved to Rio to train at Nova Uniao.
The costs are high, especially since the leather market — in which Pereira makes his money — isn’t doing so well compared to 2017. Pereira’s business partner is taking care of their company in Nanuque while Pereira stays in Rio de Janeiro to follow his son’s recovery, but not working for almost seven months has forced him to put his truck and a farm for sale.
“I’ll do everything for Alexandre and his recovery,” Pereira said. “We see that he’s getting better. Anything that the health plan doesn’t cover, we’ll pay for it even if we have to sell everything we have.”
Silva has gained almost 25 pounds over the past few months after weighing as little as 88 pounds, and the family is hoping to be able to move closer to their hometown as he’s released from the hospital and will live with home care.
The only thing stopping them from doing it right now, Pereira says, is three deep bedsores (pressure ulcers) Silva has. He had eight of them a few weeks ago, but five have already been healed after treatment and surgery.
“We’ll wait another four or six weeks and maybe he can go home,” Pereira said. “He’s no longer in a coma, but is still unconscious. He doesn’t really have consciousness of what’s happening around him. The doctor said they will remove the tracheotomy in two weeks, and he’s already eating.”
Silva’s mother was not a fight fan to begin with, so his father was the only one who made the trip in 2017 to watch him compete as an amateur at Shooto Brazil 73. This time, for his professional debut, Eliane also decided to visit Rio de Janeiro and root for him.
Their biggest fear was Silva getting injured in the fight, and they had no idea what it took for MMA fighters to make weight.
“We tried to find out what he took, what happened, but even the doctors don’t know what happened yet,” Pereira said. “It was the weight cut. They get so dehydrated. … We had no idea that was the reality. I thought maybe he would faint, something like that.
”I was more scared of the fight. I thought they would have a doctor by their side to help them when they were losing weight. He had a heart attack at the hospital and then went downhill.
”But we’re so happy to see him breathe on his own and getting better,” he continued. “The doctors told us at first that if Alexandre survived, he would be in a vegetative state, and now we can see he’s trying to talk, he moves his arms. … He tries to interact. It’s like the doctor said, he doesn’t have full consciousness of what’s happening, but no one even thought he would be able to eat again.”
Shooto Brazil president and now-former Nova Uniao leader Andre Pederneiras, as well as UFC star Jose Aldo, have visited the MMA fighter in the hospital multiple times, Pereira said.
Silva’s parents plan on leaving Rio de Janeiro with their son as soon as he’s released from the hospital. Their exact destination is not set yet, but they are considering moving to Campo Grande, which is closer to their hometown Cassilandia, or even to Brasilia if they are able to get treatment at the Sarah Kubitschek hospital, one of the best hospitals in the country.
“It doesn’t matter, we’ll go anywhere for him,” Pereira said. “We will sell everything we have and find him the best treatment.”
As for what the future holds for Silva, that remains to be seen. It’s a long road before he can even walk again, but Pereira is confident that his son will be able to call MMA Fighting one day and tell his story.
“One, five, 10 years from now, I’ll call you and say, ‘Guilherme, do you remember Alexandre? Look at him now,’” Pereira said. “That’s a story he will be the one to tell one day.”