CHARLES OLIVEIRA defied doctors' predictions for his life long before he beat the odds to become UFC lightweight champion.
At the tender age of seven, the Brazilian was diagnosed with bone rheumatism – a condition where the immune system accidentally sends antibodies to attack the lining of joints.
Oliveira's ankles bore the brunt of the pain, although his entire body was also in constant agony.
And there was a point in his life doctors thought he'd be wheelchair-bound for the rest of his days – although his mother Ozana wouldn't settle for their prognosis.
She told ESPN: "The doctor said that he would not walk, that he would stay in a wheelchair. And we said that we would not accept that."
With the help of rigorous treatment and injections every 15 days, a young Oliveira would avoid being resigned to a wheelchair.
And before too long, he was back running around on the football pitch with his friends.
He told ESPN: "The doctors said that I couldn't play sports, but as I told my father and mother, I would rather die than stop doing the things I liked.
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"I believed in the sport, I had faith in God, and he blessed me, as he has been blessing me until today."
Oliveira's introduction to martial arts began with Brazilian jiu-jitsu, which he was introduced to by the dad of some of his friends in the favela – Paulo.
It didn't take long for Oliveira and his brother Hermiston to fall in love with the sport and the pair were eventually awarded scholarships at the gym, which relieved a financial burden on mother Ozana.
But two years after introducing the Oliveira boys to the martial art, Paulo was shot dead.
Oliveira said of his passing: "He had become part of our family, for his heart, for the respect with my parents, for the affection he had for me and my brother."
Understandably, Oliveira wishes Paulo was still alive to have see the path to success he put him on.
He continued: "I'm sure that from up there he sees the story of everything that has happened in my life. I wish he was here, because he was the one who took us to jiu-jitsu.
"I'm sure he is proud to see this happen, as he always cheered and cheered.
"He said that one day we would be champions and that we would give joy to my parents and to him."
After discovering mixed martial arts and turning pro at the age of 18, Oliveira racked up a perfect 12-0 record before he made his UFC debut in 2010.
Do Bronx's 28-fight journey to a UFC title shot – the longest in the promotion's history – spanned across two weight classes and was littered with highlights and lowlights.
But after rattling off eight wins a row – the second-best run in his career – he finally got his crack at UFC gold in May against Michael Chandler.
And in the same fashion he defied his bone rheumatism, Oliveira stunned his detractors by claiming the belt with a second-round TKO victory.
In keeping with his topsy-turvy career, Oliveira had to battle through tremendous adversity in the first round to fulfil his dream of becoming UFC champion.
Despite reaching the pinnacle of the MMA world, the soft-spoken and humble, Oliveira still resides in the favela that moulded him.
And he plays quite the role in the community.
He revealed: "I still live in Vicente de Carvalho. I live in a different place, a little better house.
"I always try to seek improvements for us, but I live within the community.
"I think we have to be where we feel good.
"You have to be with who you feel good with, no matter who you are, how much [money] you are going to have, who you are going to be.
"I know where I came from and I know where I want to go, but it is not because I want to go far that I have to get away from my origins."
He added: "I try to help in any way that I can.
"I have friends, influential people who don't want to show up anymore, they want to donate basic food baskets, so we go there and get it.
"I take my money and buy a basic food basket and we donate to the favela.
"I do something different because I deliver it to everyone's door, because unfortunately the community is needy and hungry, and if not this way, sometimes three or four people from the same house go and pick up the basic baskets.
"So I prefer to deliver from door to door, from house to house. Always trying to help children to make them happy."
Man of the people Oliveira will look to deliver a knockout blow to Dustin Poirier's title hopes early on Sunday morning the main event of UFC 269.
The slick submission artist has the utmost respect for his fellow philanthropist but is determined to shatter his dream of becoming world champion.
He said: "Two men who deserve all the respect in the world are getting in the octagon.
"But when the gate closes, brother, I know my arm will be raised at the end. I'm keeping this belt for a long time."
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