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Claudio Silva: Feeding 600 families during COVID-19 crisis in Rio de Janeiro ‘best thing I’ve ever done in my life’

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Claudio Silva found himself stranded in Brazil earlier this year due to travel restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and was shocked by the reality of his home country.

The UFC welterweight, who has lived in London for over a decade and usually does his camps with Florida’s American Top Team, trained at Nova Uniao in Brazil for his UFC Vegas 27 match with Court McGee this Saturday. Spending time there, Silva decided he had to do something to help fight hunger in Rio de Janeiro.

“I love the city of Rio de Janeiro and consider it to be my second home because I’ve always trained jiu-jitsu and competed there,” Silva said in an interview with MMA Fighting. “I was doing my camp there and every time I walked in the streets, everywhere I went I saw kids looking for food in garbage cans. Old people, young people, teenagers… And I thought to myself, ‘Man, I never lacked food in my life, how am I going to accept seeing this and doing nothing about it?’”

Silva decided to use his social media to call for donations. In a few months, “Hannibal” was able to collect enough money to buy food for 600 families. Silva went to local favelas in Rio de Janeiro to deliver food “and hope” to every single one of those families.

“It was a unique experience,” Silva said. “It was the best thing I’ve ever done in my life, better than signing with the UFC, better than becoming a black belt, better than everything. Taking food and hope for those in need is divine, it’s a miracle.

“I go to places and people said they were praying to God for food because they didn’t have anything in their homes. That’s the reality I saw. It was a shock because I live in Europe for years and there’s no such thing there. I’ve seen kids that doesn’t have a toilet in their houses, no sanitation.

“It was touching. I didn’t do this for media or followers, I did that because my heart bleeds when I see kids starving. That’s why I decided to do that and help people.”

Silva, who is starting his own CBD and THC business in the United States and hopes to enter the Brazilian market in the near future, says the “cannabis community” aided him on his cause. Silva has also received donations from 11 countries around the world. The UFC fighter was delivering food to 200 families just two weeks before his UFC fight with McGee, he said.

Silva’s mission isn’t over, but he’s paused it to travel to Las Vegas to attempt to get back on track in MMA following a defeat to James Krause. Training at Nova Uniao for the first time since a win over Leon Edwards back in 2014, Silva feels “in my best shape.”

“I have a white belt mindset and I always want to learn more,” Silva said. “The more I train and fight, the more I see I know nothing.”

McGee has his back against the wall after losing three in a row and going 3-7 in his past 10 octagon appearances, but the Brazilian welterweight won’t look past him.

“He deserves all the respect, he’s a veteran of the sport and was an Ultimate Fighter winner,” Silva said. “I won’t underestimate him because he’s on a bad streak. I’ll treat him as if he was the welterweight champion, and I see myself knocking him out or submitting him. He always loses by decision, but I know I can stop him. My whole camp was done for that, and [I see] him quitting and my hands raised in the end.”