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Wife hid tumor surgery from Igor Araujo before his UFC debut

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Guilherme Cruz, MMA Fighting

BARUERI, Brazil -- Igor Araujo made his UFC debut with a decision win over Ildemar Alcantara at UFC Fight Night 29 in Barueri, Brazil, but his fight started days before he entered the cage.

Araujo lives in the United States with his wife Mariana and their three kids, but weeks before the fight he found out his wife had a tumor in her throat. Before traveling to Brazil for his fight, he knew it could be cancer, but Mariana forced him to take the trip.

On Tuesday, one day before Araujo’s fight, Mariana went on surgery to remove the tumor, but she forced his family and friends to hide it from her husband. He only found out about her surgery after the bout, and a very emotional Araujo told the story to the media after his unanimous decision victory.

"My wife was with a suspected throat cancer, man," Araujo told the media after the fight. "We’ve been through a tough moment. She went to the hospital with a tumor and the doctor said that it would be cancer if it was at level four, and she was at level three. I left her there alone in the U.S. with my three kids. Man, I can’t wait to hug them.

"My wife removed the tumor (on Tuesday) and she didn’t tell me because she wanted me to stay calm for my fight," he continued. "Things are complicated now. My head was really messed up, but this is my dream and I wouldn’t let anyone take it from me. If I stop fighting tomorrow, I’m ok with that because my kids can buy a DVD one day and ask other people who their father is, and they will know."

But that wasn’t the only issue before Araujo’s fight in the UFC. His flight to Brazil would normally take 13 hours, but his journey took more than 60 hours.

"I missed the first flight because the airplane had problems and almost didn’t come to Brazil, but my manager said they would cut me if I didn’t," he said. "I started crying at the airport because I had trained so much for this fight. So I tried to find out other ways to come to Brazil, and I found an alternative route via Colombia. I got here and my legs were swollen and I always think about giving up, but something always pushes you forward."

When the fight started, Araujo used his wrestling to control Alcantara, but he had to survive a tight guillotine during the first round.

"That guillotine was really tight," he said. "My master showed me that guillotine three or four days ago. I locked the guillotine and he showed me how to escape. I remember that when he tried to finish me. I was already seeing my grandmother there (laughs), but I would never tap. You have to kill me to beat me there."

Happy with his successful UFC debut, Araujo talked about being part of the most criticized season of The Ultimate Fighter. Araujo fought for Shane Carwin’s team at TUF 16, and didn’t get a chance to fight inside the Octagon after the season after he lost to Colton Smith in the quarterfinals.

"Nobody knows how tough is to be part of the TUF," Araujo said. "It’s easy to say when you’re out there, even for Dana White. They called us four days before the show, nobody was ready. Dana White criticizes everybody. He criticizes Fedor (Emelianenko), Lyoto Machida, Vitor Belfort… Who am I to not be criticized by him? That's part of the game. It’s normal."