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UFC’s Raulian Paiva considered retirement after girlfriend’s tragic death, promises to honor her in the Octagon

Raulian Paiva signed with the UFC after improving to 18-1 with a win on Contender Series Brazil.
Photo by Raulian Paiva

Raulian Paiva scored the biggest win of his career last November, submitting UFC veteran Iliarde Santos in Brazil. Nine months later, he entered the Octagon to compete on the Brazilian version of Dana White’s Contender Series, earning a UFC contract with a win over Allan Nascimento.

The 23-year-old talent, who now held a 18-1 record in MMA, was on cloud nine.

Paiva was making plans for his Octagon debut, expecting to enter the American promotion in early 2019, when tragedy happened.

The Amapa native left a bar with his girlfriend Tieli Alves, who he started dating a month before his win over Santos, when they were struck by a car. Paiva suffered small injuries, but his girlfriend was left unconscious. After being in coma for six days, Alves passed away Saturday in a local hospital in Santana, in the north region of Brazil.

Speaking with MMA Fighting on Tuesday, Paiva recalls what happened that night.

”The party at the night club was over and we went to a bar nearby,” Paiva said. “This guy started to harass her, but we paid no attention to it to avoid any confusion, I ignored him trying to grope her. Then, they started saying ‘oh, you’re the UFC fighter, let’s see if you’re good at fighting.’ I pretended I wasn’t listening. After some time, they crossed the street and kept drinking on the other side of the street.

”Some time later, they threw a beer can in my direction and some beer spilled on my face. I put my helmet on and said ‘baby, let’s get out go here because they are looking for trouble.’ As soon as I did that, they crossed the street holding broken bottles and stood in front of my motorcycle, and the guy that started it all came with a vodka bottle to hit me. A friend of mine stood between us and was hit by the bottle. I saw my friend bleeding and told a friend to call the police. When I said ‘police,’ they all backed up a bit, just enough for me to hop on my motorcycle and get out of there.

”We left, I looked in the mirror and didn’t see anyone coming after us. When I got to the red light, I slowed down, and that’s when I saw some lights in the mirror. I tried to move my motorcycle to the side so it would only hit me, not Tieli, but it hit the rear of the motorcycle. From that point on, I don’t remember anything. I only remember being on the ground and seeing her bleeding.”

The two men that were inside that car, Elber Nunes Zacheu and Johny de Souza Amoras, were arrested by the police.

Devastated and heartbroken with everything that has happened over the past eight days, Paiva considered to quit fighting.

”My life has no meaning anymore, really,” Paiva said, “But she always said she didn’t want to see me give up. She was very proud of what I have accomplished, she was thrilled with this fight on the Contender Series, and her parents told me that I shouldn’t give up because she was proud that I had made it to the UFC. If it’s over for me, I should fight for her, and that’s what I’m going to do. I’ll cool my head now, come back to training and then fight again.”

The flyweight prospect won’t set a timetable for his Octagon debut, but doesn’t rule out fighting in early 2019 depending on how he feels when he returns to the gym to train.

”I’ve made a promise that I will make the whole world know her story,” Paiva said. “I have to do that for her. I want to fight, and I want to fight for the title soon.”

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