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A walking miracle: Rudson Caliocane returns to MMA 30 months after post-fight brainstem hemorrhage

Rudson Caliocane had to vacate his Titan FC bantamweight title after a health scare in Brazil.
Photo via BFS

Rudson Caliocane’s life was nearly over after a weight cut gone wrong that preceded a 15-minute brawl in Brazil, which ultimately resulted in a brainstem hemorrhage.

Now, more than 30 months later, he’s finally back to doing what he loves the most.

Caliocane was a 7-1 prospect and the Titan FC bantamweight champion when he returned to his home country of Brazil to face Mateus Mendonça in a three-round contest at Future MMA 9 on October 19, 2019. He left with half his body paralyzed and unsure if he would ever be cleared to fight again. Just being alive was already a “miracle”, one doctor told him.

After two years of intense treatment with the support of his family and thousands of dollars in donations — like a $1,000 donation anonymously transferred to his account that Caliocane still has no idea from whom it came — Caliocane is set to reenter the cage Sunday in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to face Wesley Targino in a featherweight bout at Brazilian Fighting Series 9.

Regardless of the result, simply getting to this point was a success in and of itself.

“To step into that cage already is a win for me regardless of how the fight goes.” Caliocane told MMA Fighting. “To go through an entire training camp and diet, and having several doors being shut in front of me … [promoters saying,] ‘But did he fight already? No? Ask him to fight once for another promotion and then we’ll give him a fight.’ It was hard. It was really hard.”

Except for Lucas Lutkus, the founder of Brazilian Fighting Series, there weren’t many people in MMA willing to give Caliocane his first shot back after such serious health scare. Coaches, too, were afraid to let him walk right back into action in practice.

“Even Conan [Silveira], head coach of ATT, was [afraid] when I got there last year,” Caliocane said. “The first thing I did before training was go to his room and sit down with him and show my exams and explain what the doctor said. He wanted to know everything. I went through a season without sparring so he could see how I was doing in training.”

It was no different in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, when Caliocane returned to Tata Fight Team.

“Tata [Duarte] was going crazy,” Caliocane said with a laugh. “Tata didn’t let me spar on my first day back to Rio, so I was grappling with Jansey Jones and he took my back. He got the rear-naked choke and I went out. I didn’t want to tap. Tata took me off the mat right away. ‘Are you crazy, man? What the f*ck? You scared me.’ I was laughing my ass off. I was happy to feel that again.”

Caliocane was eventually allowed to spar again, but not as much as he did back in the day — three times a week, he said.

In the end, he thanks the leaders of ATT and TFT for their concern.

“Conan told me, ‘I just saw you got married not that long ago. I’d much rather have you living outside [of MMA] but happy with your family than having a warrior’s [path], a hero dead in the octagon.’ We’re happy to be back now.”

Less sparring was one key change in Caliocane’s daily routine, but not the only one.

His wife Marcele also started studying nutrition in college, “because,” Caliocane said, “I couldn’t cut weight the way I was doing it.”

“She started that just to help me,” Caliocane explained. “I eat way less crap that I used to. I hated salad; I still do, but I eat it now because I know it’s fuel for my body. It took me way too long to understand that.”

For the same man who lost his first MMA bout by fracturing his jaw and ignored the calls for retirement only to win seven in a row, culminating in the Titan FC belt being strapped around his waist, making another comeback feels like destiny.

“I’m ready to fight for my dream again,” Caliocane said. “One day I’ll be [fighting] for a big promotion. Like I told master Anderson França, I’m training to beat Jose Aldo. I’m expecting that on the other side of the cage, the best in the world.”