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Rio Gold Medalist Shared Mat with Rousey

Brazil's Judo Savior

Rafaela Silva has had to fight her whole life. Growing up in the famous City of God (Cidade de Deus) favela in Rio de Janeiro, the 24 year old judoka first battled boys on the street playing soccer. By the age of 7, she was introduced to judo, however, her struggles in and outside of the mat would continue including, suffering discrimination for her sexual orientation.

Gold medalist, Rafaela Silva, made Brazilians proud

Regardless of the obstacles placed in front of her, Silva, along with her coach, Geraldo Bernardes, have a history of finding success. Since 2011, at just 19, Silva has been winning medals in international tournaments including, Pan American Games, World Championships and now the Olympics. More specifically, before earning gold at Rio 2016, Silva also received gold at the 2012 and 2013 Pan American games and 2013 World Championship, which was also held in Rio de Janeiro.

With 2012 London gold medalist, Sarah Menezes, losing in the quarterfinals, Silva was the only Brazilian judoka to win gold at Rio 2016.

Another point of contention in Silva's budding career is her military service. While this is an honor in many countries, Brazil's recent history has some, especially on the left, highly critical of the branch. In 2015, Silva won gold at the World Military Games in Mungyeong as an individual competitor and member of the Brazilian team.

Making history by becoming the first Brazilian woman to ever win gold at the World Judo Championship in 2013, Silva fought just miles from her home and training center. The proximity seems to have also helped the judoka in picking up Olympic gold just weeks ago. In the finals, Silva defeated Mongolian, Sumiya Dorjsuren.

Silva is managed by her girlfriend, Thamara Cezar.

Rousey Connection

Silva got tips from former Olympic medalists

Back in 2014, Rafaela Silva, along with other Brazilian judokas including, 2004 Olympic bronze medalist, Flavio Canto, hosted then women's bantamweight, Ronda Rousey, for a seminar in Rio de Janeiro. At the seminar, Silva, a member of Canto's Instituto Reação, showed her skills off to Rousey, herself a bronze medalist at the 2008 Beijing games.

Rousey was in Brazil at the time to take part in one of Canto's many social projects in Rio's favelas. 

As far as Silva one day joining Rousey in the UFC, it is hard to say given that Silva is just 24 years old and at the top of her game in judo. However, the 5 foot 7 inch fighter has competed at 126 pounds her whole life and would fit in nicely in the UFC's women's bantamweight division.

Perhaps most intriguing would be a match up between gold medalist, Silva, and her one time mentor, Rousey.

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This post first appeared on Worldwide Mixed Martial Arts, please read the originial post: here

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