Fightland

The Tornado and the Beach

By Eugene Robinson

The story is as crucial as crucial could have ever been. We're talking Grimm's fairy tale crucial. A family goes out one day, in this instance to a beach, and a boy, their boy, falls asleep, face down in the sand. Then all of the things you'd expect from a story about the beach: waves, warmth, the play of sand against his face.

But then the boy wakes up into a brand-new world with little more than the clothes on his back and the complete and total absence of the family that took him to the beach. You see, they're gone. As in fled, disappeared. The boy is five years old. Or six. He's uncertain about the age even though he's quite sure that his name is Carlos Eduardo Rocha. As far back as his earliest memories go? It's always here, to this.

"In Brazil, sometimes, if the family is big and poor … this happens,” Luta Livre great Leopoldo Serao says. Rocha shifts from foot to foot and nods his head. He's training with Serao and planning/plotting his return to professional MMA after an unceremonious departure from the UFC following two straight losses. But the image of a kid on a beach full of nothing but sand still haunts him. "I'd eat what was left on the beach," Rocha says while wrapping his hands. "There were a lot of us living there. Stealing to eat, eating food left over, from garbage cans." And so from month to month for years Rocha lived on the very fringe of the fringe. No school. No bed. No clothes, blankets, holidays, nothing.

Then one day some guy came down to the beach and told Rocha, if he wanted, he could come to his school and eat for free at least once a day. Which sounded like a good deal to Rocha. And the fact that it was a fight school made it even more so. "I don't know what he saw in me,” Rocha says. “But that's where I got my fight nickname from: Ta Danado. You can't really translate it from Portuguese, but it described me as a kid. I was like a tornado. All over the place." The man was Darlynson Lira and the school was Team Darciolira and the homeless kid had found a home.

Read the rest over at FIGHTLAND

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