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Kayla
Harrison
will not be the only female Olympic judo champ that
decided to move to MMA.

Brazilian Rafaela Silva, the 2013 world judo champion and former
2016 Olympic gold medalist below 57 kgs (125 pounds), has
officially started her MMA training. Joining the new MMA academy
led by Professional Fighters League lightweight
fighter Joilton
Lutterbach
, she has already begun picking up striking
fundamentals. According to Ultimate Fighting Championship fighter Claudio
Silva
, who held mitts for her for the first time, the judoka’s
future looks bright.

“An Olympic champion is a different animal,” “Hannibal” said
confidently. “Rafaela is world and Olympic
[champion]. In less than one hour holding mitts [for] her, it was
easy to recognize her focus and power. I bet in a few more months,
we are going to have another prospect in [the] flyweight
division.”

According to “Peregrino,” Silva made a deal to be part of the team,
training every day with the professionals. She will also make her
debut in an MMA event inside the gym.

Lutterbach explained, “We are planning to promote small events here
in the academy area, and she liked the idea to make [her
professional] debut here.”

Rafaela failed a drug test in her last competition, after winning
the gold medal in 2019 Pan American games in Peru. In addition to
losing the title, Rafaela was handed down a ban of two years for
any official judo events. This suspension was a motivator to
transition into MMA, as she would not be allowed to participate in
the Tokyo Olympic games – should they actually take place at
all.

Silva, an athlete who had passed all of her previous drug tests
beforehand, was considered a first offender by the adjudicators
that handed down her ban. In addition to this, she proved to the
anti-doping officials that this result from fenoterol – a
bronchodilator that treats conditions like asthma – was not
intentional. As a result, Silva received a two-year ban instead of
one lasting four years or longer. Sherdog reached out to Silva, but
as the appeal process is still pending, she elected not to provide
an official statement at the time.

Before considering MMA, Silva was already training at the Instituto
Reacao, a facility that has worked with the UFC in the past. Rousey
donated $30,000 to the organization before facing Bethe
Correia
in Rio de Janeiro, for example. This training center is
located near the Cidade de Deus neighborhood, which is where Silva
was born. Silva plans to make her pro debut in 2021, and she will
join an elite group of Olympic gold medalists that migrated to MMA
including Harrison, Henry
Cejudo
, Kevin
Jackson
, Kenny Monday,
Satoshi
Ishii
, Mark Schultz,
Karam
Ibrahim
, Ray Mercer,
Rulon
Gardner
, Pawel
Nastula
, Istvan
Majoros
, Makoto
Takimoto
, David
Khakhaleishvili
and Hidehiko
Yoshida
.


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