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Retired fighter Roger Gracie talks coronavirus infection: ‘I never felt that before’

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Roger Gracie retired from MMA after winning a ONE Championship belt in 2016.
Guilherme Cruz, MMA Fighting

Roger Gracie thought he would handle the coronavirus smoothly if ever was infected by it due to his history as an athlete and a healthy lifestyle, but was surprised by the virus last month.

A former ONE Championship titleholder and 10-time world champion in jiu-jitsu, Gracie told Combate he was one of the 93,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United Kingdom, where he runs his jiu-jitsu gym. In an interview with MMA Fighting, the grappling wizard says he “stayed in bed for two weeks” after “the virus took me down,” but feels 100 percent now.

Gracie, 38, closed his jiu-jitsu school almost five weeks ago, days before the government determined all gyms to shut its doors due to the pandemic. In fact, he started experiencing the first symptoms the day after he decided to inform employees and students that the gym would no longer open for training.

“I know for a fact that it was the virus,” Gracie told MMA Fighting, revealing that his girlfriend and a woman that works for them and lives in her house also presented several symptoms of the COVID-19. “I had all the symptoms. I was weak, had fever, shortness of breath, coughing, pain all over the body and headache. I have no doubt I had it. I never felt that before.”

On the eighth day of high fever and other symptoms, the UFC and Strikeforce veteran “woke up worried and called the ambulance and decided to go to the hospital because I wasn’t feeling well.”

“Fever was gone and I thought I was getting better, but it came back even worse the day after,” he said. “I got really worried that day. I felt super bad, worse than before, so I called an ambulance. I had high fever for 10 days.”

The ex-fighter left his house and entered an ambulance, but was advised to stay at home unless he felt worse. Fever was gone two days later, and the coronavirus test Gracie bought online only arrived when he was already feeling better, so he asked for reimbursement.

With almost 100,000 confirmed coronavírus cases in the U.K. and more than 12,000 deaths caused by the disease, Gracie hopes people around the world give the health crisis the necessary attention and respect isolation measures.

“The last person I thought would get affected like that was me,” Gracie said. “I thought, ‘if I have it it’s going to be something softer,’ and all of a sudden I had high fever for many days. I wasn’t getting better, I didn’t get better.

“To tell you the truth, I woke up early in the morning with shortness of breath and got worried. Everything you read about the problems is when it gets to the lungs, and all of a sudden I woke up with shortness of breath and I’m thinking, ‘damn, here I go to the hospital to get intubated.’”