Walysson Aguiar was shot twice at age 13 and then abandoned by his mother in Fortaleza, Brazil. “Saved” by martial arts, he now tries to make the most of a last-minute opportunity at Thursday’s Brave CF 78 in his hometown.
Aguiar woke up one Wednesday morning and headed to the gym like any other day. His shift as a security guard began after lunchtime so he had plenty of time to train at V8 MMA, but it all changed when his phone started ringing non-stop at 10:28 a.m.
Joilton Lutterbach had missed weight moments before for his main event bout with Luan Santiago at Brave 78. Manuel Mena also came in overweight for his bout with Marcelo Marques, so the company paired him up against Santiago. Marques was on point on the scale but was left without an opponent, so V8 MMA head coach called Aguiar with the offer.
“Are you injured? How much do you weigh right now?” Moura asked.
Aguiar, a natural bantamweight, weighed around 158 pounds at the time, and was shocked to hear an offer to fight the very next day at a 158-pound catchweight. It took him a moment to process the idea, but Aguiar then rushed to the hotel to step on the scale before the weigh-in window closed, so the fight was made official.
“Everybody’s saying I have no obligation to win because I’m a replacement but I don’t think like that,” Aguiar told MMA Fighting. “I’m very focused on what I do and I’m going there to beat him, period. He doesn’t want this more than I do.”
Aguiar, 28 years old and 3-1 in the sport, has always dreamt of being a professional mixed martial artist. Aguiar said his wife wasn’t very supportive of the idea, occasionally diminishing his chances and labeling him a “backyard fighter.” It boiled up to a point where the marriage ended, and Aguiar had to leave the house, wife and two kids.
“This fight will be a turning point for my life,” Aguiar said. “God has given me this opportunity because I’m capable. It’s all fuel to me.”
Aguiar still had to work as a security guard after the weigh-ins, and refused to take a room at the fancy Brave CF host hotel in Fortaleza so he can stay closer to his kids. His children are such a priority for the MMA fighter Aguiar has spent nights sleeping on a public square nearby just to be around them, he said.
“Life has gotten a bit better after my coach got me this work as a security guard so I can keep my mind busier but ever since I left the house I’ve jumped around all the time,” Aguiar said. “I have no support aside from my coach. I have no sponsors, nothing. I’ve reached a point of walking 32 miles to the gym to train because I had no money to pay for the bus ride. There are days I simply don’t sleep, but my kids are my fuel and I want to give them a better life.”
All that struggle and sacrifice, he said, is nothing compared to what he has been through as a teenager.
“I was shot twice and spent months in hospital when I was 13,” said Aguiar, who got involved with local drug dealers. “I have no father or mother so the streets welcomed me. I would sell drugs and do anything I had to do. There were fights all the time in the streets, and one day a man on a motorcycle passed by and shot me twice in the leg and in the ribs. If I’m alive today, that’s because of God. I had no childhood, no youth.”
Aguiar said his mother walked away from home shortly after that, leaving two kids behind. Fifteen years later, Aguiar believes “deep in my soul that I will win in this sport” and give his children a better future.
“This is my life,” Aguiar said. “This is what I breathe. The sport has changed me, has taken me from the streets. I’d be dead already if not for the sport. But I truly believe I will be in the biggest stages in the MMA world not only because I deserve this, but because I was born for this.”
And when the cage closes Thursday night in Fortaleza and Aguiar is standing across 8-0 talent Marcelo Marques at Brave CF 78—a co-promotion between the Bahrain-based company and local MMA organization Victorious MMA—Aguiar said he knows what will happen.
“The camp he’s done and the strategy he’s made for his previous opponent won’t change a damn thing,” Aguiar said. “Every time I train in the gym is like a camp and I’m ready for him. I’ll be very specific here: I want to defeat him by submission, rear-naked choke. I’ll land a good hand on him and then I’ll end this fight with a submission.”