Friday, March 2, 2012

First Birthday Cake... At 32

I grew up in rural Nebraska. We weren't rich, but we were better off than most. My dad treated farming as a business, rather than a lifestyle, and made a good living off of it.
I saw poverty, many of the children that I grew up with lived in, what I would conciser, squalor. They were dirty, often showering and washing their clothes at school. It seemed as if their families didn't have two pennies to rub together. However, they all had homes to go to, they had heating and air conditioning, their families had at least one serviceable vehicle, and they all had color Television. Some even had gaming systems, something that my family never had.
Every single one of them had cake, presents, and even a party for their birthdays.

With this as a reference of poverty, it is difficult to conceive what REAL poverty is. When I went to Mexico City as a teenager I witnessed real poverty first hand. Those so poor that their primary concern was where they were going to find their next meal. It was a shock.

From time to time, I will travel to a country where poverty is real, and I will be shocked anew. However, there are those who can lift themselves out of this poverty. Enter one of my favorite, though somewhat batshit crazy, fighters, Rousimar Palhares.

Rousimar grew up in Dores do IndaiĆ”:

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When he was growing up, since he was about 7 he worked on a farm with his parents to earn money for the family. He once fell on a severed banana tree stump that cut deeply in to his chest. His family couldn't afford medical treatment, so the closed the wound with scotch tape. You can see the massive scar on his left side to this day:

When he was about 15 his family managed to scrape enough money together to allow him to train every now and again with Iran Brasileiro, a BJJ black belt in his town.

After training for a while, and a few wins in MMA, Rousimar decided he wanted to be a full time fighter. With the help of his brother, he managed to scrape up enough money to get to Rio. Once he was there, he used an old magazine article to find his idol, Murilo Bustamante, and the Brazilian Top Team gym. Rousimar didn't have any money, but after seeing his skill, Murilo allowed Rousimar to work, and live, in the gym. Rousimar has followed Murilo where ever he went, and still trains under him today.
Rousimar has become a feared man in MMA, and in the BJJ world. He is known for his amazing skill with leg locks, and his powerful body.
Rousimar celebrated his 32nd birthday on February 20th, and, for the first time in his life, he celebrated with a cake. Something so common in my country, a far away dream in another. Happy Birthday Rousimar. I wish you many more with all of the sweets that come with your continued success... Just start letting go of people's legs before they come off their bodies, ok?

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