"We were like zombies, covered in mud, in the dark, digging and digging."
According to MSNBC, this is what 19-year-old Brazilian Geisa Carvalho had to say when asked about the events that followed the mudslides and flooding that took the lives of more than 800 people in small towns just north of Rio de Janeiro on January 12, 2011.
After receiving startling phone calls from both his son and daughter, Alex Davis, manager of Antonio Silva and other prominent MMA fighters, was one of the first of those "zombies" on the scene of devastation. Davis described the shocking scene he witnessed in a letter to MMAWeekly:
"...The scene of destruction that I encountered is beyond description. It was mudslide after mudslide, the river that runs through Nova Friburgo had risen more then seven or eight meters above its normal level, leaving a complete mess of mud and debris.
Luckily, I found all my kids safe, although they live right in the center of things. My son Johann was in a state of shock, having seen friends buried alive right in front of his eyes.
At this point, I need to tell a dramatic story about the site which my son was at trying to help.
Among the people buried were a family of four, Husband, wife, 11 month old son and grandmother. Marcos Verly and Johann knew they were alive, and were trying to get to them along with the other firemen, when the second landslide fell, and then still a third one even bigger, engulfed everything. Big machinery was brought in, to try and dig out the people that had been originally buried, and also the rescuers. As they dug, they started hearing some one calling, turns out was the father, who had managed to dig under the debris to his 11 month old son, he held him against his chest, and both were miraculously alive, although the mother and grandmother were dead right beside him.
As the hours passed, that father gathered saliva in his mouth and fed it to the baby, later, rescuers managed to get a tube into to the debris and gave water to the father, who would fill his mouth and give it the baby. His description of how he did this, and how the baby would grab his face and fit its mouth on his in desperation for water makes me weep!
Finally, 16 hours after they had been buried, they were dug out alive. I happened to be there when the baby was freed from the mud as I was bringing water to the rescuers as they worked tirelessly with the slim hope of finding people alive..."
Days after the disaster, Davis continued to do everything he could to help the victims of the mudslides, riding his dirt bike to small villages in hopes of giving professional rescuers the information they would need to help aid those still in need of water and supplies. With rescuers unable to reach out to all of those affected, Davis continued to help by donating blood and personally delivering as much water as he could to neighboring communities.
All the while, Silva was training at Imperial Athletics Gym in Florida for the biggest fight of his life against Fedor Emelianenko. With the mudslides and flooding disrupting all cell phone and land line communication, Silva was initially left to watch the news for information on what was happening. When Davis was finally able to contact Silva, he tried not to distress his fighter with the news during his training.
Clearly and understandably, Silva was affected by Davis' accounts of what had happened. Silva dedicated his fight with Emelianenko to the Brazilian mudslide victims and included an advertisement for Combat Athletes for Nova Friburgo, a charity started by Davis to benefit those affected by the disaster, on the banner that hung behind him as he was introduced for the fight.
Silva went on to defeat Emelianenko, widely considered to be the greatest heavyweight fighter in MMA history, in a fight that will go down as one of the great upsets of all time. Hopefully, Silva's win can serve as some sort of inspiration for those attempting to rebuild their lives in Brazil.
When Ariel Helwani asked about his emotions after Silva's victory, Davis said: "I can't even describe how I feel. We always joked, me and (Silva), that one day we'd get to the beach and I guess we finally got there."
As Davis spoke, Silva embraced his manager and kissed him on the forehead. It was a touching moment that would even have Emelianenko's biggest fans feeling thrilled that Davis was able to enjoy positive emotions for the first time in weeks.
In an interview with Tatame toward the end of last year, Davis commented on Silva's potential in 2011, "I hope that on the beginning of the next year, he fights Fedor or Barnett, on his way to become the number one. No one deserves it more than him.”
If anyone deserved this victory more than Silva, it was Davis for everything he has been through in the past month. Davis and Silva are great representatives for the sport. More importantly, they are great human beings.
For more information on how you can donate to Combat Athletes for Nova Friburgo, please visit the charity website here.
Sean Smith has been a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report MMA since October 2010. For the latest insight and updates on everything MMA, you can follow Sean on Twitter @BR_Sean_Smith.