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Raulian Paiva’s coach tests positive for COVID-19, won’t be in his corner at UFC 251

Raulian Paiva won't have his main coach by his side when he fights Zhalgas Zhumagulov.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Raulian Paiva loves fighting, and still had mixed feelings when he got a call to fight at UFC 251. Traveling across the globe to fight Zhalgas Zhumagulov in Abu Dhabi on July 11 was a weird thought during a global health crisis, but Paiva opted to see the glass half-full.

Paiva lives in Para, one of the five states with most deaths related to COVID-19 in Brazil — a number that currently nears 5,000. With gyms closed, Paiva had to figure out new ways of training during the lockdown, and his head coach Ronildo Nobre wasn’t an option after testing positive for the virus. Paiva confirmed the news to MMA Fighting after a report from Ag. Fight.

Nobre won’t be in Paiva’s corner at UFC 251, but the fighter tested negative for COVID-19 and is cleared to travel to Abu Dhabi, his manager Tiago Okamura told MMA Fighting.

Okamura manages several other fighters scheduled to compete in Abu Dhabi, and decided to test everyone involved in their camps to make sure they were all coronavirus-free. Jessica Andrade, Karol Rosa, Elizeu Zaleski, Carlos Felipe and their teams tested negative for the virus. Marina Rodriguez hasn’t been tested yet, but her corners’ tests came back negative.

Paiva’s coach is feeling OK despite the fact that he and his family had the virus, but Paiva knows people several that lost their lives during this pandemic. To remain sane during this health crisis, the UFC flyweight dove deep in his training camp.

“A lot of people died,” Paiva told MMA Fighting, “so being focused on the fight, being focused on the camp, one way or another, is a therapy.”

Paiva scored his first UFC win in February, knocking out Mark De La Rosa, and doesn’t think much of Zhumagulov, who makes his octagon debut after racking up a 13-3 record competing mostly in Kazakhstan and Russian.

“Based on what I’ve seen from him he’s a striker, walks forward the entire time and is very brave, but I don’t see much danger, things that I have to worry about,” Paiva said. “I’ve fought guys that are way better than him, but he’s making his UFC debut and is hungry to show his potential. I’m ready to put on a great fight and come out victorious.

“He has no jiu-jitsu, and also doesn’t have an excellent takedown defense. His striking is ok, but I’m going for my second knockout in the UFC. I had that taste before, so I want another one. But if he makes a mistake, I’ll submit him. I just doesn’t want to leave it in the judges’ hands because there are a lot of mistakes going around and I don’t want to make any mistakes.”

Paiva joined the UFC after defeating Allan Nascimento at Dana White’s Contender Series in Aug. 2018, and won only one of three in the UFC. In the final bout of his contract with the company, Paiva aims to impress and earn another deal.

“I still have a lot to show in the UFC,” he said. “After this fight, I want to fight a top-10 or a top-5 of the flyweight division.”

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