Two disabled athletes collided in an MMA bout this past Saturday in Paraupebas, a small town located 12 hours away from the major Brazilian city of Belem.
The bout took place as the curtain jerker of ABCF Fighting 23 and featured Geova Rodrigues Botelho in the blue corner and Pedro Costa in the opposite side as the red corner. They traded punches to the face for three three-minute rounds, with Costa coming out victorious via split decision. In the end, both athletes were happy to be part of the experience.
“It was an unforgettable fight,” Costa told MMA Fighting. “I’ve been on a wheelchair for 14 years and never thought about fighting. I was first approached with this idea in 2016 but I wasn’t training at the time, I wasn’t prepared. I spoke with Muay Thai and boxing coaches now and decided to do it. It’s not easy for us, disabled people, to get into fighting. Geova and I are good friends and we had the guts to do this. I’ll never forget this moment.”
ABCF Fighting founder Marcio Machado told MMA Fighting that Botelho was a “champion in karate” before suffering an accident that left him in a wheelchair, and has continued to compete in sports while in a wheelchair. Costa, likewise, was paralyzed after a gunshot.
“They are both high-performing athletes,” Machado said, “and close friends of mine asked why wouldn’t I book a MMA fight between disabled athletes. We spoke with our medical staff and referees and did some research on the legality of this, and decided to make it happen.”
Machado said the next card of ABCF Fighting is scheduled for Sept. 7 and will feature a championship bout between disabled fighters, “showing the world you can still compete in MMA even if you’re on a wheelchair.” Machado said other disabled men have already reached out interested in fighting in upcoming ABCF Fighting events.
“They’ve always wanted to be part of this but never had the opportunity,” Machado said. “We were bold enough to make it happen and it was a huge success. We’re now looking into helping these athletes to find better training and make this competition even better, so other athletes can do it too. That’s the goal.”
“If there are other challenges available, we’ll do it,” Costa said. “I’ll even send a letter to the UFC because disabled people loved this idea. I know it wasn’t a beautiful fight, but it was the first one.”
Watch the full fight below.